Mohamed Metwalli

Mohamed Metwalli

Mohamed Metwalli was born in Cairo in 1970. He was awarded a B.A. in English Literature from Cairo University, Faculty of Arts in 1992. The same year, he won the Yussef el-Khal prize by Riyad el-Rayes Publishers in Lebanon for his poetry collection, Once Upon a Time. He co-founded an independent literary magazine, el-Garad in which his second volume of poems appeared, The Story the People Tell in the Harbor, 1998. He was selected to represent Egypt in the International Writers’ Program, at the University of Iowa in 1997. Later he was Poet-in-Residence at the University of Chicago in 1998. He compiled and co-edited an anthology of Off-beat Egyptian Poetry, Angry Voices, published by the University of Arkansas press in 2002. He published his third collection The Lost Promenades in 2010 by the independent al-Ketaba al-Okhra publications. He participated as a guest poet in the Semana Poetica Poetry Festival at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in Fall 2011. Lost Promenades was republished by the General Egyptian Book Organization (GEBO) in 2013. A Song by the Aegean Sea, his latest collection of poetry, was published by Afaq Publishers, Cairo in 2015.

Gretchen McCullough is a fiction writer and translator, teaching at the American University in Cairo. Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in: Archipelago, The Barcelona Review, NPR, Storysouth, Guernica, Mediterranean Poetry, The Literary Review and The Common, among others. Translations in English and Arabic with Mohamed Metwalli include: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail inTranslation and Al-Mustaqbel. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories from Cairo (2011), trans. with Mohamed Metwalli, and a collection of short stories, Shahrazad’s Tooth, (2013) were published by Afaq Publishers in Cairo.

Gretchen McCullough’s website: www.gretchenmccullough.wix.com/gretchenmccullough

 

A Song by the Aegean Sea

Mohamed Metwalli

Published by Afaq Publishers in January 2015

 
Unarmed Waiter

Boisterous conversations have a shelf life
They keep hovering above the seaside restaurant
For almost an hour
After the departure of the customers
And when they are over
There is a slight snap
Exactly like the one which just happened
When the raven of the palm tree attacked
The unarmed waiter with its beak
While watering the plants
After everyone had left
Mistaking the mole on his bald head
For a huge raisin!

June 8, 2014

© Translated by Gretchen McCullough and Mohamed Metwalli

 
The Cats of Izmir

Fish have a shelf life,
Humans have a shelf life,
Love has a shelf life,
Migrants who keep pouring daily on the coast
Also have a dream with a shelf life,
Save the fat cats of Izmir,
Who spend half of their time
Devouring the leftover fish from the restaurants
Or from the fishermen
And the other half, sleeping
Or licking their bodies
And the curious thing:
They think themselves
The landlords of the place
And treat street dogs and gypsies
–Who occupy the place at night—like slaves
Never bothering about time,
Shelf life,
Or even dreams!

June 9, 2014

© Translated by Gretchen McCullough and Mohamed Metwalli

 
Jump Cut

Two a.m.:
A street dog chases a prostitute,
who fed him the leftover chicken from her purse,
Wishing to spend the night with her,
A woman in her white wedding gown
Wails in front of the sea
After the groom jumps into the water for his life
Nothing of him later appeared but a black smoking suit
Afloat!
A roving violinist
Still serenading wedding songs
Next to the grieving woman
Being well-oiled, he hasn’t yet
Realized the loss of the man,
The lover, who found his girl after a long quest,
hurries in front of everyone carrying her
Then, disappears from the scene
(Back then, there were plenty of side wings)
The silver of a sea bream fish
Shimmers in the moon light
When raised in the air
By the pole of a blind fisherman,
A black inkwell spills
Staining a white shirt
Worn by the Bohemian poet
As for his balcony, his table, his drink
And his two palm trees with the raven
They all have been edited
–later–
In the final cut!

June 9, 2014

© Translated by Gretchen McCullough and Mohamed Metwalli

 
Farewell

I say farewell to Izmir,
To the Aegean Sea,
To ships seeping their light
From afar;
Silver and gold on the surface of dark waters
To the prostitutes, whose giggles
Still resonate in the air, teeming with iodine,
To the fisherman, battling a storm solo
Till his umbrella was buckled by the torrents,
To the carcass of a dove,
struck by lightning in front of my very eyes,
Devoured, later, by the raven then the seagull
To a roving musician who sang to us,
From behind the restaurant glass,
For two liras,
To the geraniums on my balcony,
That waxed lyrical when watered,
To the migrants, flooding from behind the mountains,
Dreaming of this city
Farewell, I say
Farewell, beloved Izmir!

June 10, 2014

© Translated by Gretchen McCullough and Mohamed Metwalli

 
For other contributions by Mohamed Metwalli, please follow the link below:

 
Published with the permission of Mohamed Metwalli & Gretchen McCullough