English, RMW Festival 2013

Meet Ghayath Almadhoun


Almadhoun is a Palestinian poet en journalist born in 1979, in Damascus, Syria. In 2006 he founded, together with the Syrian poet Lukman Derky, The House of Poetry in Damascus.
In 2012 he won the Klas de Vylders Award from the Swedish Writers Union.
Many of his poems were translated into German, English, Swedish, Italian, Greek and Slovenian.

The City

Ghayath Almadhoun
Translation: Catherine Cobham.

The city resembles wrinkles wrapped around one another like the bodies of those forgotten in the prison cells of the third world, as prominent as a punctured memory, as conspicuous as feast day clothes, as brazen as the threads in a Persian carpet. This city has always fascinated me with her accumulation of layers, one layer sleeping with another, giving birth without being pregnant, a city that wears a burqa on her face and leaves her brown legs bare. The city cuts through me when I try to seduce her. As I come and go each day, I cut through her like the godfathers of the proletarian revolution cutting off the heads of the bourgeoisie, then the heads of their own friends, I cut through her with the patience of a camel, the zeal of a Kalashnikov and the appetite of a locust heading for the fields in the morning.
The city is like memories, vague, but shyly caressing reality, burdening our sleep with an increase of desire and our conscious minds with more questions and, like the funerals of strangers in strange cities, arousing pity without shaking hands with grief, moaning in the night as if afflicted by a desire to migrate and scratching the skin of our conversations with nails of obscure yearning, then slipping into bed beside us. When we used to wake up in the middle of death at the sound of her sobbing, she would cover her face with a pillow and our dreams would come crashing down.
The city is like tourists, with their rashness, digital cameras, sandals unfamiliar with the language of pavements in the cold north, heavily taxed cheerfulness, hashish cigarettes that they deny all knowledge of when they return to the land of snow and ice, the city is like them with their fake bronze colour after their bones have soaked up the sun and vitamin D, and their cameras have soaked up the city.
The city is like sellers of lottery tickets with their lifeless faces and their reports to the intelligence services following the rise in the price of bread, the city is like them as they plant dreams along the streets, promising millions to passersby, while their children are suckled on water and only win hunger.
The city resembles her seven gates, open and without surveillance like the beds of whores, closed to the tiniest ray of light like the tombs of the dead.
The city resembles Damascus.