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This article is taken from PN Review 247, Volume 45 Number 5, May - June 2019.

A New Divan translated by Bill Manhire & Sinéad Morrissey
A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West
Bill Manhire and Sinéad Morrissey

Suleika and Marilyn

English version by Bill Manhire, based on a literal translation from the Arabic by Reem Ghanayem
Stanza in Arabic

I heard myself call from deep in the well.
The wolf my brothers invented, he listened and fled.
It wasn’t my blood on the shirt, but still our father was blinded.
Was there a real well? A real shirt?
Was the desert a true place? Was the wolf himself actual?
What awaited me up on the earth’s surface
but the Prophets’ Road to Egypt?

Stanza in Arabic

In an ancient book
I found a court, a queen, a keep.
Suleika loved Yusuf and cut her fingers…
Oh, real blood that time; a real shirt, too.

I am searching for blood for my poem.
My fingers grow sharp as I write it.
I find Suleika in a refugee camp.
The hot iron she carries
burns and blisters her fingers.
On the wall, a photo of her dead brother;
I can see how her hands bleed as she does the dishes,
how her beauty is there in the rags she wears.

Stanza in Arabic

And now I am thinking of Marilyn Monroe.
She took her life because the world is made of pain
plus tiny scraps of love. She shone ...

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