Blesok no. 55, July-August, 2007

Walking in a Shadow

Tarek Eltayeb

Walking in a Shadow

I walked behind him
Like a prisoner in his shadow
I did not stray
As he had wanted
I did not see whose paths we crossed
Despite his frequent salutations…

I emerged from the shroud of his shadow
And stung by the sun
I went back along the path

Straying in this way
I saw all that he had hid from me
All along the path
I saw who we’d been meeting
I began to hear what he had never told me
Despite his speech’s stress

He did not grant me much time
To reach my sun

I rebelled against his shadow’s chill
Against its gloom
I strode towards the rays of the sun
I stood until he left with his shadow
I waited
Until it died out

I walked alone
My shadow in front of me
Like a sash tossed over my shoulders
Yet I feared that some naïve passer-by
Would tread on it and fall captive

So I took another path
Wide and spacious
Where no-one walks behind another

[Vienna; May 9th, 2000]

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)

The Emigration of Night from Day

Night emigrated from the cheerless city,
leaving it with the exhausted days.
It took its moon and its stars and left.

The city was happy about the light
and stayed awake for days.
When it grew tired, it did not find the night
in which it might have been able to rest.

Day emigrated from the exhausted city,
leaving it with nothing.
It took its sun and its noise and left.
It looked for darkness
wherever it came,
for darkness that divides time.
Day grew tired and did not know
how and when and where it should sleep.

Somewhere, in a place where time had got lost, a little child came upon a rusty key with a few signs: a Siwa fortune-teller’s prophecy:
    In the beginning of time, night sneaked away at dusk to take a bath in the sea. It fell in and got caught. The prize which darkness demanded to set it free was that the sun should always proceed to the sea’s table when dusk fell.

Vienna, 23 October 1993

(translated from German by Wolfgang Astelbauer.
”Aus dem Teppich meiner Schatten”, edition selene, Vienna 2002)

Another Pillow

Before I go to sleep,
I always shake
my pillow.

The remnants of the dream
I dreamt last night
remain still fresh.

I do not shake them
from my pillow.
But turn them carefully round.

Perhaps the dream will come
once more tonight,
be just the same
as it appeared
last night,


or else
it will be old.

Translated by: Peter Waugh

Leaden Words

that leaden words
fell upon a little girl,
happily asleep
in a garden.

that her father scolded her
because she disappeared in a world of dreams
and did not listen to what he said.

that the girl were heavy
and lugged her body
cursing all the time.

that the girl became a woman,
and, stooping,
had her gaze always turned to the ground.

that there were tons of lead in her head,
forty long years,
and curses throughout her life,
curses cutting her down.


Vienna, Amerlinghaus, 28 June 2000

(translated from German by Wolfgang Astelbauer.
”Aus dem Teppich meiner Schatten”, edition selene, Vienna 2002)


I see them …
They enter the dark room
as if crossing the border
without a passport.
There they take off
their masks,
as if removing skin.
They whisper,
speak in hoarse voices,
they cough.
Then they seem to agree.
The whole thing is becoming suspicious
Their faces slip
further and further
slide down to the ground
and trickle away …
They stamp on them,
unable to recognise them.

I watch them …
before they go out,
to stick the masks
to what remains of their faces.
They seem bountiful and gentle.
Their smiles give off a perfume.
They are stuck in their stiff clothing
and seem directed by remote control.

I am one of these corpses
who stupidly watch,
remain lifelessly silent,
by a flood of distracting images.

In my head
my mind returns
to thinking about the interval
when they’d taken off
those masks.

Translated by: Peter Waugh

The Bull

A bull does not go down
because the time of sacrifice has come,
does not go down
at the sight of the sharp knife in the temple,
the spears in the arena,
the threatening shine of the blades,
does not give in to the mercilessness,
the festivities, the din,
the rattle of the just slaughtered,
last night’s lunar eclipse,
the bloodthirsty dogs,
does not give in to …
not give in to …

A bull goes down
because it forgot
that the gods, after having been adored,
are slaughtered
in the end
and then

Vienna, February 9th, 2001

(translated from German by Wolfgang Astelbauer.
”Aus dem Teppich meiner Schatten”, edition selene, Vienna 2002)

The Broken Shadow

I walked upright
until I approached
the walls
of the sleeping houses,
my shadow upright
next to me.
All of a sudden, it broke
on one of the walls.

And it remained broken,
when I had retraced my steps
from the walls.
Frightened and careful
I looked around.
Yet, my shadow remained broken
though the path did run straight now.

Vienna, 28 April 2000

(translated from German by Wolfgang Astelbauer.
”Aus dem Teppich meiner Schatten”, edition selene, Vienna 2002)

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