July 2, 2022

Last Dance

By Sheikha Hlewa

Translated by Yosefa Raz

O Stranger,
I am pulling you onto the noisy dance floor but you
bite half moons around your fingernails.
The waiter asks: is this how they dance in your country?
You say: no. This is how they walk on water. 
You tell him how you switched places with a barren tree
how you stayed silent when they pierced your flesh with lost dog signs, 
how you injected blue ants in your veins.
And I remind you: when you prayed standing on your head 
shipwrecked letters came crumbling from your nose. 

O Stranger, 
I hold your hand and lead you under the victory arch. 
You tickle yourself under your armpits and laugh at the passers-by:
In my land they line the eyes of kids with kohl against the evil eye
until the planes return with glad tidings in their belly. 
In my land men leave sticky threads on the thighs of women
a moment before leaving for a final battle, 
and here you make love on the sidewalks
and die at crosswalks on fancy boulevards.

O Stranger, 
Let’s buy a “double espresso”
drink it near the bridge and talk “small talk,” 
we’ll find synonyms for hidden cellars and messianic arrivals. 
You will whisper to the bridge:
My mother burned the books I left behind 
and fed an old battle survivor and the neighborhood cats
with the cooking water. 
She feared the heresies of the written word 
and I grew bewildered by the interpretation of bridges.  

O Stranger, let me write you a homeland. 
— No. In the hell that I wrote, all the homelands
burned in the last chapter. 

رقصة أخيرة

أيّها الغريبُ
أشدّكَ إلى حلقةِ رقصٍ صاخبة وأنتَ
.تقضم لحم أصابعك دائريّا وأفقيّا
يسألُ النادل: هكذا يرقصون في بلادكَ؟
.تقول: لا، بل هكذا نمشي فوق الماء
تحكي له كيفَ تناوبتَ مع شجرة عاقر
.كيفَ احتمل لحمكَ إعلانات عن الكلاب الضائعة
.كيفَ حقنتَ أوردتكَ بنملٍ أزرق
أذكّركَ: عندما صلّيتَ واقفا على رأسكَ
.تقاطرتْ من أنفك رسائلُ لم تسقط في البحر

أيّها الغريب
.أمسكُ يدك ونمشي تحتَ قوس النّصر
:تقرص تحتَ إبطكَ وتضحك للمارّة
في بلادي نكحّلُ الأطفال خوفا من الحسد
.ريثما تأتي الطائراتُ بخبر مفرح
في بلادي يتركُ الرّجالُ خيوطا لزجة على أفخاذ النساء
.وهم يهرعون إلى المعركة الأخيرة
أنتم، هنا، تمارسون الحبّ على الأرصفة
.وتموتون بين شارعيْن أنيقيْن

أيّها الغريب
double espresso تعال نشتري قهوة
small talk نشربها عند الجسر ونجري
.عن مفردات الأقبية المنسيّة وانتظار المسيح
:تهمسُ للجسر
أمّي أوقدتِ الكتبَ الّتي خلّفتها ورائي
وبالماء الذي طبخته أطعمت مُحاربا قديما
.وقطط الحيّ
كانت تخاف فتنة المعاني
.وأنا التبست عليّ دلالات الجسور

.أيّها الغريب، دعني أكتبُ لك وطنا
     لا. في جهنم الّتي كتبتها، احترقت كلّ الأوطان –
.في الفصل الأخير


Sheikha Hlewa (شيخة حليوى) was born in Dhayl ‘Araj, an unrecognized Bedouin village near Haifa. Now living in Jaffa, she is a lecturer on Arab feminism at Ben Gurion University. Her short story collection, The Order C345 (C345 الطلبيّة), published in 2018, won the best short story book award in the Arab world 2019–2020. Her work has been translated into Hebrew, German, French, and Bulgarian. 

Yosefa Raz is a poet, translator, and scholar. Her work has recently appeared in Entropy, Jacket2, Guernica, Protocols, the Boston Review, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her scholarship is focused on the often fraught transformation of prophecy into poetry. She is a lecturer in the Department of English Language & Literature at the University of Haifa.