By: Salem Al Okali**

A desert swelling on the map..

Cities searching in the pockets of the unseen

For the keys of the century.

Streets narrow for the smoke of your cigarettes

Open terraces..

Deluded with the washing drizzle


On the pavement you bow

Under hanging meat

You pass with a woman

A driver gave her the way

In return for the light of her legs.

Posters on the walls

Workers on the side of livelihood

Consuming coals of the narghiles.

Italian shoes

Don’t understand the language of our streets.

Lovers pretending to be relatives

And kisses postponed to the next century.

Boys pushing to the dream

Carts of tobacco.

And girls happy with the small breasts.

Hot phones till the morning..

Waiting for the residential crises to be solved.

And mosques minarets..

Promising the patients for a peaceful judgment day,

And paupers idealizing the failure

And feel satisfied with praising Manhood.

Ready identity cards in pockets

And you..

At the end of the café

Cursing the government

Because the tea is without foam.

Your impossible girl

Wasting her body in fitting rooms,

And the bad liquors..

Is not enough for your absence..

As soon as the others see you

They swallow your stature

And stagger..

Luxury vehicles

Snatching the girls from the trap of the poems.

Despite the well chosen words,

And the tidy pens in the shirt’s pocket

And your subjective critique of renowned poets

The new girl friend tells you:

That a comfortable chair

Is better than a vague poem

And you lose because you’re like this,

And because the half opened stores..

are vigilant against Gheble and thieves.

In your pocket a shopping list

And in your head a list of prohibited items,

In your hand a broken watch,

And a ring that drives away the admirers


Your early arrival to your job

Doesn’t mean that you woke up

And the children that slept all the day

Will hunt your pleasure…

next night.

Your jealous wife..

Cleans your clothes from beach’s tar

And your eyes from the pictures of female presenters.


What lights your room

Isn’t necessarily…

the glow of your early sleeping woman

You spend your night waiting for a poem

And on the steps of the court

You spend your day waiting for a fresh divorcee

Thus, terror hits you

While you struggle for the scene

And you smell in the eyes…

The forest fire

And you search the city

For a bench for two lovers

And you’re inspecting your friend’s comic drawings

More terror hits you

When you return back home

Without crossing off the list:

You have to bleed a lot..

So, your sleep becomes lighter.

You have to draw a sober frown

Thus, laughing kills the heart

You have to invent your secret name

To each new lover

You have to fade the window’s light

And plant an eyehole in your door

You have to insert your knife

In the woman’s body

To test her sweetness

You have what you have

Before you meet –face to face-

Your lean face

A wound, the size of the mirror

A vast homeland

Without a place to make love

A window..

At the end of the corridor

Listening to the footfall of foreign shoes

And a desert


In the heart

And on the map


* From the collection (A bench for two lovers) (Mek’ad Le Ashikain) 2002.

** Salem Al Okali (b.1960 –      ) Renowned Libyan Poet, has many published works of poetry and essays.