Literal Translation by Shaun Whiteside

Zuleika Speaks

Literal translation by Shaun Whiteside


where am I from? time and time again the same question

i’ve been out of it so long I’m barely aware

it also gets to my father – with the same accusation

that meant he had to go and make good the loss

of family and land as a cab driver here

and when his shift ends with two glasses of plonk

he sees himself now as the keeper

of our faith and raises shiraz skywards like it’s paradise

forgotten the resentment of his god’s reps along with their alibis

i was 15 when I stopped shoe-gazing in his presence

and have been held hostage since then with the deeper

skin the darker hair and the nose

which no hijab can subtract from the world

still not taking off the veil has meant

becoming a woman now despite all the dirty looks

from without            to be within is what one is

a life can only be led if you don’t miss yourself

which is easily said here in frankenhausen

but less easily done              allowed to train up

as an interpreter I’m surrounded by flip-sided words

that spin and keep slipping their definition:

hide and hide    just and just    match and match    lock and lock

which side occupies me? this side?

common to both is the unfreed

arm and the arm with the unpractised notes

in a language no longer strange to me yet so blank

that everything could start all over again

if I were allowed enough elbow room

no rush for german hospitality –

politeness serves the most dreadful hostility

no point complaining about spite

whatever they say to you: the powerful remains

as your goethe says                         how to go on – living on your wits

like a bag lady wandering through no-man’s-land

cross and cross    fair and fair    smart and smart

a mizzling rain on the bared forearm

the yellow dusk        the lowering of the light

time can promise as many hopes as grief            how is that?


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