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What Do I Do With A Woman's Screams? - Poem by Khaled Juma

Who would save me from a woman's screams; whose son went to buy a song and became it?
I could not tell her that the time she dreams of is hidden in a moneybag, and that screams are useless because ears do not work, as they should. She did not understand. She asks me to give her back his remnants, and put them together; someone had convinced her that her tears will bring his corps back to life.

I looked around me; none but she and I were in this vacant space, not a man, and not a demon, only her, me, and the remnants of her son five meters away. Between the remnants, and us were tanks, and soldiers, and canons; and UN Resolutions stood in the first row. Behind them, stood Arabs and strangers and football players, and singers, and dancers. Behind them, stood hungry peoples, burning suns and planets who did not find their orbits, parts of seas, some madmen distracted with recording events on clay tablets. My eyes could not be certain of other rows in these five meters.

The woman screams and gestures at me, I dig a hole in the sand with my foot for me to hide from her voice and her looks and the sand becomes harder. Sin cities come to look and laugh and tattoo a few phrases on the night's face, then go brush their teeth and forget me and the whole scene.

The woman keeps screaming, and I keep shrinking, who will protect me from her screams? Who will bring back my conviction of my manliness? Who will fill me in bags and send me to nothingness?
I seal my ears with melted wax, and the woman's voice comes out of my heart, my eyes, my skin, the details on my hands, it comes from everything, and ascends until it becomes a choir, and the rows between us and the remnants of her son increase and become even more indifferent, I become a mouse, she becomes a city and I see her, morphing piece by piece, her hands become streets, her eyes borders, her abdomen trees, her chest a cloud and her waist buildings, names fall from her on a sliver stairway, she enters history and I come out of it sneaking. She still screams and armies still separate us from the remnants of her son.

I try to scream like her, perhaps we'd share something, my voice comes out like a dancer in a shameless wedding, I try to muffle my voice and I cannot. My body disintegrates into silly sayings filling the road to and from the sea, to and from the sky, to and from news bulletins, to and from poems, to and from all curses. I fill my mouth with sand to stop my voice, the sand becomes speakers and unfolds me, I try to commit suicide, death looks at me and rams into me with horns of cotton and says: the time for buggers did not come yet.

Between me and the woman-city, are two steps. I try to come closer to her, I find my feet had become two meaningless useless cactus trees. The scene is still as I left it, the woman-city screams, the remnants of her son are five meters away, between us and the remnants are tanks, and soldiers, and canons; and UN Resolutions standing in the first row. Behind them, standing are Arabs and strangers and football players, and singers, and dancers. Behind them, standing are hungry peoples, burning suns and planets who did not find their orbits, parts of seas, some madmen distracted with recording events on clay tablets… and I, still, do not know what to do with her screams.

Translated from Arabic by Nida Awine


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