Vox Populi

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Riad Saleh Hussein: A Serene Evening

This evening is serene,
This evening is not calm.
I am a man or a pack of dynamite—
Under my trench a red goose or a black unicorn.
The woman with grassy breasts and two dead hands
Slept with her husband on the roof.
Then—this evening was not calm—
The bearded farmer did not sleep.
He stole a fat hen last night:
The criminal squad found the bones in the bin.
Then this evening was not calm.
Injured Rita died in the forest—
The bushy branches and swamps covered her.
But the Monte Carlo radio station did not mention it.
Dear sir and madams:
Lucy the cat was killed by the wheels of a rain.
Mr. X could not
Fulfill his duties timidly
With his wife.
The evening is very calm.
On the bank of the Mississippi a whore
Spinning wool and weaving socks for war victims.
Poets speak of poetry,
Workers on work,
Lovers on love,
Farmers on cows,
But please tell me, oh dirty reader,
What do the dead talk about
In this serene evening?
Of course not about the hockey game
Or the glories the Princess of Monaco attained.
She showed a mass of thieves her underwear.
They talk about death.
Is death a piece of cake or a Danish monkey?
Is it an apple or a clown with a nose like an apple?
Is death a dream or a reality?
If it is a reality
Why does Hitler still think of stuffing weak bodies
Into gas chambers?


— Translated from the Arabic by Saleh Razzouk & Philip Terman


Translation copyright 2018 Saleh Razzouk & Philip Terman.

First published in Bitter Oleander. Included in Vox Populi with permission from the translators.


Riad Saleh Hussein

One comment on “Riad Saleh Hussein: A Serene Evening

  1. Philip Terman
    August 17, 2018

    Thanks much, Mike! Will do. Hope you and yours are healthy and staying “serene” in the troubling times.

    I’m working on a multi-media performance about Saleh—it’s coming along really well. Some of his translations and his profound emails will be part of it. It’ll be at City of Asylum.

    As ever,



    Liked by 2 people

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