Poetry by Mohamed Metwalli

Two Words

I was disturbed when I found trees sprouting out of my poem
So I yelled out two words
After I yanked open the door to a sunny day
Which still promised of clouds and cold fingers
I shouted two words of a strange language
That I probably dreamt of the previous night
Two words from a language that my tongue did not recognize
They almost caused a crack in the wall of the house next door
Almost caused my neighbor to fall
While repairing the antennae on his roof
I never learned where I got the strength
To yell out these two words so confidently
Standing in front of the house.


They were made of wax and pine nuts
Without a hand to pick them up
They were sprouting wildly
Like grass on a blank sheet of paper
I have to wait for a passing cloud
With enough light to guide me
To the nearest train station,
Since my neighbors are enraged with me
And have decreed that I should be sent to the sea
I could not argue with them.
Since I love those two words
Yet I do not understand them!

(April 2010)


There is a next bottle
In the metaphysical distance
Which someone will give you as a present
and invite you to a raucous party
where everyone learns they will die the following day
They will celebrate you greatly
You will spend the grandest evening with them
Before you smoke the last cigarette
And write the last short poem
Worthy of international journals
You will kiss your former women in your last hallucination
Then go to the countryside
To recapture your father’s roots
His branches and leaves fluttering to the slightest wind
His simple accent
To recapture his smile when he left life
On a joke you told him
mocking those who took life seriously
There, the sun will shine on your fingers, melting them
Since they were only made of wax
Or maybe a black hole will swallow your soul
Since it was only made of delicate glass.
Perhaps your cycle will continue after death
You may become a revolving rock in the galaxy
Or a meteor falling on the opera house
To silence that fat singer forever
Or a comet hitting earth
Forming, next to the Mediterranean, a salty lake
To be frequented by poets, fishermen, cats and seagulls
But maybe you also will transform
Into a speck in the outer space
To be part
Of the grime of the universe!

(April 2010)


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 appeared his second volume of poems, The Story the People Tell in the Harbor (1998). He was selected to represent Egypt in the International Writing' 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 offbeat Egyptian poetry, Angry Voices (University of Arkansas Press, 2002). He published his third collection, The Lost Promenades, in 2010 with the independent publisher al-Ketaba al-Okhra. The same collection is forthcoming from the General Egyptian Book Organization (GEBO).

Gretchen McCullough

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen, Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Texas Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Storysouth, Storyglossia, and Guernica. Translations in English and Arabic with Mohamed Metwalli have appeared in Nizwa, Banipal, InTranslation, and Al-Mustaqbel. Her bilingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House in Cairo. Other published stories are posted on her website http://www.gretchenmccullough.com. Currently she is a Senior Instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.

Copyright (c) Mohamed Metwalli, 2013. English translation copyright (c) Gretchen McCullough, 2013.