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A phrase!

Najwa Barakat


Madness, a protruding terrace overlooking the sunset.

Of all that I have written, this is the only phrase I remember. Were I to count all the sentences that I have written, there would be many, tens, certainly, no, even hundreds. And not one to remember. I do remember sentences of other people’s, few as they are, but they are relatively numerous. But of mine, I memorize none, except this phrase in my first novel. A single six-word-phrase, and nothing else.

I like that I do not like speech much any more; and I like the fewness I am experiencing; I do not “accept “ speech just yet; I say accept, from “acceptance”. Sick people do not “accept” food, for instance. I am “sick people” too, but of another kind. A kind of sick people who “do not accept” speech, all of it; written, whispered, or even implied.

A state of sickness, speech sickness; clashing voices, spumy foam, and clamouring speech, and speech rising to a crest, and saying nothing; but remaining indigestible, most of it as rough as rubber that is not chewable, that expands, and twists, and stretches out, but nothing can cut it, no fire can eat it up, it never wears off or get wearied, or get ashamed, or get bored, nor suffer, nor wonder, nor question; it feeds upon itself, and reproduces by itself; it does not need an ear, a tongue, an eye, or a hand. A speech of a monster stemming from itself that has no Lord, no check, obscene to its full extent, senseless, with unbridled desires, it violates, and is violated.

Kingdoms of stone speech with pointed towers, on whose masts flutter amputated organs, and the corpses of children who experienced death before they had a taste of life.

Wars of scorching dark speech ejecting hellish balls that smash the crystal of the sky, and swords of curved, cutting, despotic speech, that hungers for blood, mingled with the salts of the past, and the flour of pride.

And monsters of speech that roars and fights, and triumphs to disembowel, and break necks. And speech!

But still.

When space shrinks, there is no space except on a sheet of paper, I get entangled in its lines, seek fraternity with its letters, and lie under its shades…shades of the meaning word, speech that lost its shadows…the speech of shadows…

Madness, a protruding terrace overlooking the sunset.

As a teenager: I knew another phrase: Bliss for schools of fish migrating against the tide. It came to me one day while I was floating over a letter to a friend, then it left. I do not know why it did. It was not a dispute, negligence or mistreatment on my part. I think it grew old, or I grew too old for it, while still in my mid twenties, in the middle of the civil war, on my way to expatriation, in the middle of the question.

Today, I am forty, amid the roaring of all this speech; I find no phrase for me. A single phrase amid this flood of undulating speech. A phrase, and nothing more, to slumber on its side while I count the quenched stars that pierce the skin of an ailing night. A phrase, nothing else; to adopt and be adopted by it, to look after, and be looked after by it, and enjoy each other’s company, like two bare trees, with match-stick fruits. Just a phrase, so the world would look even for a moment. A beloved phrase, befriended phrase, a shading phrase, a shield phrase, a vaccine phrase, an inoculation phrase, penicillin phrase…any phrase…

A phrase to spare for the poor!!



English translation by Nadia Said