THE ARAB PRISON
So I said to him: “I’ll tell you a story you will like. One day long ago, a king fell ill and sent for his doctors. They said to him: ‘There is a wholesome, God-fearing man in your kingdom who, if you send for him, will cure you if God responds to him.’ The king sent for the good man, and said: ‘Pray to God for me.’ The good man said: ‘How will He accede to my prayers on your behalf while in your prison there are so many innocent convicts?’ The king was angry and ordered the good man to be arrested, so the number of prisoners increased, and in time the king was cured of his illness.” My little brother said to me, on his way out of my bedroom: “Your tales are boring today.”
He went out and I remained, trying to forget the last three days, still shaking as if buried under an iceberg.
And grand Abdullah concluded: And I didn’t shed my fear until I turned into a fly.
TRANSLATED BY JOHN PEATE
from the collection Nida’a Nouh, (Noah’s Summons), 1994
The Old Gate
Out of the tavern came a blond-haired soldier. Left behind him was the din of drunken men with brown complexions and downcast eyes; downcast, that is, until they spotted him, at which point they began to blaze with a savage hatred because he was one of the foreign soldiers who had invaded a city they had not been born in.
The street outside was silent and empty. When midnight approaches, the city surrenders itself to slumber; lights in windows go out, streets are deserted, and it turns into a kingdom of vagrants, gamblers and drunks dragging themselves home.
The foreign solder walked parallel to the river bank, a trifle unsteadily. A gentle breeze was blowing, bringing with it the scent of
BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 141
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