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By: Booksa

Poems by Jalal Alahmedy

Large large greg panagiotoglou ptljymudds4 unsplash Greg Panagiotoglou; Unsplash.

At Home


Now I sit alone

around a circular table

Now I sit circularly

around myself

Now I sit, as empty as a table

Now I sit

Failing to understand

why my body smells of tobacco

and loss

My heart is a wardrobe filled with suspended clothes

and with relationships suspended like souvenirs

My head is a rusted tin of sardines

When it trembles in the breeze

A lost cat cries in my mind

When children pelt me with stones

They roll ball-like toward the trashcan

When I ask the time

I emerge into a void

When I ask

I have become light

Like nothingness

To my right, air

To my left, air

I float on air

And the air sets me down

When I rise above the surface of thought

I want only to fall back upon sharp truth.

I’m a stone that dreams of flight

Like an ancient deity, I rest on the threshold of my despair

I consider writing a poem about a woman I don’t know

I consider drawing a portrait of a woman who’ll never come

I consider how I’d ask her out for a cup of tea

I consider the long path that leads to my front door

I consider the long path that leads to my house

I consider the long path to my house

I consider the path to my house

I consider my house

Then I consider buying a doorknob for the door

And a door for the wall

And a wall for us

But I’m hungry now

I want to end this

And to cry alone

and sleep


A truck that picks up bodies

Drives around endlessly in my head

It runs over everyone I once loved

Before carrying away their remains.

Moist black rises from the back of it

Without end

Or names or thoughts

Only a constant, silent din

And the smell of memories expiring.

When I close my eyes, the old days shrink

Down to a tear

And sneak out

For a drink at the bar

Proceed to get drunk

Shake everyone’s hands

Are kissed

Pick fights

Then creep home before I wake up.

The truck, drunk

And maudlin,

Crashes around in the gloom of my skull

Dragging itself without wheels

—without even a body really—

Over a narrow and slippery pass

In search of an end

Or a stray thought

The truck, drunk

And angry,

Booby-trapped with the bodies of those I have loved,

Drives around

And around

Since before the deity

Since before time

But not for any reason

Or any person

But because it’s a truck

Because there’s a head

Because it should.


There’s a severed head in my fridge!

I have no idea what it’s doing there in the cold!

But that means someone slept

Free of nightmares last night

I could bear it on my shoulders

Walk down the street with it,

Chat to people

No one would notice when sound comes out the wrong place!

I could just as easily ignore it

Return to my life

Get married

Have kids

Grow old

Die eventually

The fridge would go to my children

Each in turn would open the door

Pick the thing up and put it on

Before walking down the street

Chatting to people

Who would take no notice!


When I wake up

There is a tree lying beside me

Hmm ... It must be thirst

That brings us both to a place like this,

I go into the kitchen

Where I find a bear on the dining table

I seem to have left several doors


In my life

Telling myself that if I ignored them for a few years

They would disappear


Would seem like nothing

When I turn the tap

Out comes a fish



A crazed fisherman must be

Chasing them

If I give them a home, they might live a bit longer

I plug the basin

And we drink together




I step away and begin to howl.



On the wall, I paint a man on his own like me

Then worry that I’ll feel lonely like him

So I paint a butterfly

But worry it’ll fly away

So I paint four walls

Then worry we’ll despair

So I paint a cloud in memory

Then fearing the question-crows

I paint a trap

Then worry it could work

So I paint an indifferent tree in the distance

Then worry that he’ll think it’s all real

So I paint a moon that’s been gnawed on by regret

Then worry that the poem will distract him

So I paint nothing

But then worry that he’ll discover the doubt

So I paint a door that has been expertly shut

But worry that he’ll get used to failure

So I paint him a suitcase, inside of which another suitcase holds a key

But then worry that he’ll learn the secret

So I paint a bottomless pit on the other side of the door

But worry that I’m proud of his madness

So I paint an owl on his right shoulder

But worry it could make him too wise

So I paint a wolf into his left lung

But worry he may avenge his body

So I paint a rollie between his lips

But worry it could suffocate the dream

So I paint a window

But worry about thieves

So I paint a rifle

Then the cold kills me

Then I worry I might forget.


A Jungle Appeared When You Left


You can’t uproot a tree called


Not even by trapping it between the covers of a book

One day

Someone will open it

Liberating the jungle that appeared when you left.


From time to time

Kick pebbles

With your feet

Pretending not to know is a temporary death

Don’t make it a habit.


At the supermarket

In front of the seafood freezer

Is the only place

I stand cheerful

Where I can see the ocean


In a cage.


I lean on words

Because everything else wobbles

And my hand is as feeble as the rest of me

It yearns—it longs to suffer

Because the hands that reach out

Spatter me with new memories

With a new void whose limits my exhaustion cannot know

With an unripe euphoria

They come with claws and canines

It is perhaps less desolate than usual


kills faster than boredom

I fatten my heart for its knives

As it’s more merciful than pity

I hand over my regrets for it to weigh

As it’s more gentle than ignoring loved ones

Without the slightest trepidation

Where everyone can hear me, I call it by my name.


What good is a memory?

It’s a party

in an elevator

Stuck between floors

No one else can join you

The thought alone

Makes me claustrophobic.


I’m no longer sad

I have a new shirt

It feeds the plants when I’m gone

Opens the door for me

Wipes my sweat on its sleeves

Embraces me

When I’m feeling low

It sneaks up behind me

To rubs its buttons across my back

Sings softly in my ear

When I have a fever

It flops like a frightened puppy

onto the bed beside me

After I fall asleep

It spreads out

On the clothesline

Dreams up names for the stars

And like me it


Awaiting you.


There are good days

And bad

And there are days, which

I can’t understand why God would create them

In your absence


I want to love you

I want to hate you

A little

Want my intense hatred

To be a way

Of loving you.


I’ll repeat what I told you before

I’m your toolkit

Use me to repair

The world.


“To my friend Umar Murshid”

I gave him a shirt

He gave me a pair of socks

For a second, I thought

What I’d done would make him handsome

More handsome

Meanwhile, he wanted to find

A way

To keep my feet


Two days later, I lost a sock

But found it again on the third day

By then I’d lost the other one

It went on and on

Each day

Losing one warm half

Only to find the other.

There are things we don’t think of

That are worth living for

That’s one of them.


Lonely people’s gifts

Frighten us

Because they resemble them.


On War


The bullet enters through the front of the soul

Through the place of seeing

Through a window designed for that purpose.

Through a book by an anonymous author,

Through a silly plot

Or some shortcoming in the narrator’s imagination

The bullet enters through the back

Through a vertebra—to be specific—

The perfect place—to be specific—

To cause partial paralysis,

The bullet enters between the thighs

Like semen does,

Like rulers’ spikes,

Like time entering in on itself,

The bullet enters through yesterday

Through a tomorrow recycled one million times

Made grimy by politicians and clerics

It enters through bugged phone lines


Power lines, half of which are real,

The bullet enters through the computer screen

Like porn

A teenager’s bedroom,

Like despair

The depressed,

Like trees

A wood stove.

The bullet enters the memory

The origin of thought

The instinct of self-sacrifice that all prey share,

The first executioner’s whip

The revised history of slavery,

An unknown beginning!

An uncertain end!

The bullet enters for free

Like a bullet

And never leaves.


When the war is over

The sniper will return home and hug his kids

He’ll cook his wife fish

And go to bed and wake up for months

Years, maybe

He’ll wash his face

Go to work

See his old friends from the war

They’ll smoke

Tell jokes

And return home to their families

They’ll have sex

Or write good poems or perhaps not

But when the war is over

He will go back

And wake up for years

He’ll smoke

Have sex

Have sex



Until we die.

Jalal Alahmedy

Translated by Adam Talib.

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