Poets Against War Autumn Newsletter 2007
Poets Against War Newsletter Summer 2007


In this issue:

The Republic of Poetry: Hampshire College Commencement Address by Martín Espada
Two Poems and Two Paintings by Tarek Eltayeb
Poetry of Solidarity by Karen Margolis
What Country is This? Editorial by Sam Hamill
The Good Artists Were Usually on the Right Side by Samih al-Kasim

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Tarek Eltayeb

My Grandmother’s Advice

My grandmother’s advice when I was small
Was the following:
            “Eat well to grow strong.”
            And I grew strong
            “Drink lots of water.tarek watercolors
            Don’t stay out late; don’t smoke:
            You’ll live longer that way.”
            I stayed out late and I smoked
            And have yet to die

Yet once in the autumn of my life
I sat in front of the television
And saw heavy boots
Crushing the world
I heard the endless tally
Of those who had just climbed to heaven
Each one madly racing to the grave
From that day on
I could hardly sleep

On a different channel
I took in the very same things
In another language
And then in yet another
My eyes devoured them
My entire face was flashing lights—
I did not sleep

The commercials that broke up the news
Advised me to buy
Something sweet for my stomach
Something refreshing for my mood
But how, how could I possibly sleep?

Grandmother,
I grew old at the end of autumn
Older than I’d ever hoped:
I realized that these tiny giants
Were setting out to plow the earth
To dig up its treasures
To till the cosmos
And bless us with the news
Of fresh and heavy boots
That would crush the world

Grandmother,
I cannot sleep:
Absurd—so much to eat here
Alongside so much hunger
Absurd—so much to drink here
Alongside so much thirsttarek watercolors
And so much news
Both here and there

Grandmother,
No-one wants to understand the news
The faces cram themselves against the storefront windows
They hang there like pendulums
Faces
Still seeking
Boots fit for a live broadcast

[Vienna; March 28th, 2005]


COFFEE AND WATER

A hundred times a day, he says,
“I’ll have to return. Here, there is no mercy.
There, there is kindness and warmth and …”
Then he falls silent.

I ask him, “There?
Where is that?”
He points somewhere.
His face is expressionless,
and he does not say anything anymore.

I take his hand.
We go to a café
and sit down at a quiet corner table.
I order coffee for him
and water for me.

I speak to him in Arabic
and mix water into the coffee.
He is annoyed, “Are you crazy?”

He tries to remove the water
from the coffee.

He tries to.

He tries to get the water back
into the water.

Vienna, Café Griensteidl, June 27th, 1997


(translated from the German by Wolfgang Astelbauer;
from “Ein mit Tauben und Gurren gefüllter Koffer,” edition selene, Vienna 1999)

Tarek Eltayeb was born in Cairo in 1959, the son of Sudanese parents. He studied Business Administration at Ain Shams University in Cairo and at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. He has been living in Vienna since 1984, and is currently teaches at the International Management Center / University of Applied Sciences in Krems, Austria and at the University of Graz.

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