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Salah Niazi

In every muscle there is a suppressed howl
And like no other scream is the scream of a knockdown
It is the despair of fear & timidity
Inside the boxing ring
Hands are now truncheons
They know no mercy

Is the arena like a balance
The size, the height, are of no importance?
But scales themselves are a misleading measure
The two pans are never equal even when they appear so
How can a kilo of dust equals a kilo of blood?
Look at it
Look at it
A king-size statue on top of the court-building
A statue of cool, limestone sobriety
The sword is in the right hand
The scales of justice in the other
Reassuring of course but look at it again
Visual consolation no more
Since when is damage redeemed by punishment
Playing on words
Maybe just like tranquillizers
A temporary truce between pain and screams
The damage could last for ever

But what has this to do with Mr. Kamali!
Have I lost the knack of versifying
Why should I start with a tedious preface
Only in begging should there be a stutter
Only in a new love should there be hesitation

Again what have the scales to do with Mr. Kamali?
Or indeed why has boxing cropped up from nowhere?
We were not fighting
There is no ring after all
At least none that anyone could see.
It is true he is some inches taller than me
His chest is high like a sportsman
On the scales or indeed in the ring
Size, height or width can hardly matter
Let him show off then and who cares
He was a minister
Used to having a hot line to the president
And cracking dirty jokes with him
So what! I have my own dignity that should be kept intact
Yes, to the bitter end

It is true we were not in a ring
At least no-one can see it

Oddly, the first bout began on the train

We sat opposite each other
His cheeks were rigidly tense and getting darker
Like burnt meat
His high chest was gasping for air
Aquatic animal stranded on dry land
As if suffering from a stone in his bladder
(It was taken out by a surgical operation
It had the shape of a heart
His wife made a hole in it and wore it as a necklace)

The train moved slowly but with sure puffs
The buildings on both sides also moved like rivers
Cold wind sneaked up the trousers
First he drew back his head
In the way of a tyrant who does not want to listen

Some inches taller than me
His chest is a hand-span wider than mine
So what I said to myself
I will never throw in the towel

Even if he wears a lion's mane
I put my dignity in one pan
Let him put all his offices and rhymed verses in the other

I was waiting cautiously for his first move

He looked at the meadows full-face
They were neatly lined as if by a ruler and compass
Freshly green as far as one can see
Spotted with cattle and tractors and larks

All of a sudden a sigh burst out
That could blow out ten candles at once

Better be silent he said in a veiled voice
Walls have ears hinting at the authorities
And the patch he added is smaller than the rip 1
His face is getting darker still
A smoke of conspiracy clouded his eyes
Has he a coup up his sleeve?
- Secrets are amassed on the scales
They are heavier than all weights and measures -

The train drives on through the cutting icy winds

And passes small cities without reducing its speed

Trains make faces yet paler

And mouths drier
And skins stickier
And bladders heavier

He bit the sandwich with a wry face
Looked at it with disgust and threw it out of the window
It flew away in the air with his teeth-marks

My fortresses were crumbling
And swollen was the silence between us
A lump of pain not unlike a fish bone stuck in my throat
The silence getting bigger and more aggressive
Like a suppressed roar in a muscle

He looked at a far-away hut in the meadow
By itself it was standing
As if germinated by force of nature
And with a voice of a ewe having an abortion
Mr. Kamali ruefully said
I wish I could shut myself from the world in that hut 

What! it is really welling up
Yes it's welling up
It is a real tear
He looked at me then the tear fell down
I heard him sobbing like a little boy

That was his real knockout
In its highest fear and in its highest weakness

We were not in a ring
At least no-one can see it

Some years later no more than the five fingers on one hand
It was rumoured that sorrow had killed him
Or was it a heart attack
At his funeral no escort to his final resting place
Others say he was torn to pieces inside prison
Like the flag of a hostile state.

Translated by the author: edited by David Andrew

1 An Iraqi slang proverb which means the situation is hopeless or impossible.




Richard Berengarten


Now holds all that's perceivable to sense

and more-than-senses (meditation? prayers?)

in concentration, pure, refined, intense.

Now abstracts (from potential) abstract layers

to concretize them in self-evidence,

for instance, in what happens to the hairs

on arms, and skin-pores, when coincidence

shivers the frame and radiant fulness flares,

or when a sound sparks off a resonance,

thrilling and chilling, from the gentlest airs.

Now's curious landscape (flat, steep, deep, thin, dense)

subsumes all borders and contains all wheres

in innocence and in obedience,

contraries coexisting unawares.


Now, point


How I am flooded by the giant size

of this one point, this now, this hollow drum

of momenthood, whose mode and medium

consist of glory, radiance, surprise

(phantom, come, gone) before I realise

this mini-heaven, aspiration's sum

rounded in fulness, emptiest vacuum,

cannot be held (distilled) as paradise.

And though this point of now (this full cup) holds

nothing but notness without skin or core

being infinitesimal and one

see how its quick transparency unfolds

pluralities of things just as they are

flickering past no sooner than begun.


Now, crumbling


Now, crumbling in the vast imperative

of arrowed curves and carvings, falls like rain,

a plaintive, pliant interrogative

pouring away. Nor will you come again.

No presence could sustain, less still summate

the timescapes strewn across your roundedness.

Were you a verb, how would you conjugate

to ramify (breach, clasp) unboundedness?

Still, you move ever constant in your weight

of weightless nothing. Like a steady river

you are what's given, gift that gives your giver

this this, immediate, importunate,

on the specific onrush of your flow

whether we shall accept your gift or no.


Now, brimming


Now, brimming, spilling surplus, calls more more

to every drop and morsel of the real.

Though full in plenty, presence cannot heal

this now of incompleteness or restore

eternity through time or evermore

envelop this one moment with a seal

to stamp it still and separate, or reveal

more than it is. Its surface is its core.

Now, never static, will not isolate

itself from the continuum of space-time

through synaesthetic sense, or more sublime

transcendence of itself, or doom or fate.

Now fades and falls away like any quantum

leaving no trace, ghost-speck or shadow-phantom.

Now, drum


Now, hollow drum, old knot, new pleated fold,

mere point, fine spectrum, radiating waves

through time's continuum - thrumming loom that weaves

new fabrics on this energetic field

matted through matter, uncoiled and unfurled

across the dust-swept patterns of our lives -

no sooner swells and breaks than ebbs and leaves,

self-emptying each instant it has filled.

Is this then nothing but the drum the dream

of being patters out its morse upon?

Since now repeats with neither gap nor seam

between (within) each wave, its antiphon,

eliding all nows on a curved light beam,

how then can now be ousted or outshone?


Now, cup

To the Shekhinah


Spillage through now of vast eternities

won't be contained. Now floods and overbrims

coursing through organs, spreading out to limbs

joy (energy) to all extremities.

Perfection, borne on time, disperses currents

into now's hollow chalice (bowl, pool, lake,

vessel, strong-standing, that won't crack or break)

to overflow in tricklings, cascades, torrents.

And so this cup runs over. Yes, it's true

excess of plenty quickens eyes that you

keep turning to me through refracted rays

sprayed under waterfalls by rainbow haze.

Now, transverse to time's flows, re-empties, fills

as, poured and pouring, glory overspills.


A point, a cup, a drum


A point, a cup, a drum, a gate that swings

back and forth, tempting, and then clangs shut, fast,

a meeting glance, a feather fluttering past,

a vista in a vista, packed with things

and each, when gone, rampant with echoings

of next and afternext, bred from the last,

ghosts of a needle's eye glimpsed through now's vast

arena, spreading through concentric rings,

and though no now may ever come again

this now, its then-past and then-next stay wound,

unbroken, in a double spiral chain

of pastness and futurity around

one single coil of presence, to entrain

now in its knot of notness stretched and bound.


Concerning music


Seeing that through this now flow fine and firm

currents of time, directed in more ways

than eyes perceive or intellect can term

even though portioned through divided days,

and hearing in this now pure notness drum

its echoing note (eternity revealed?)

unclouded, light-filled, against background hum

of what-is and would-be, together sealed -

may I in ways I've never dared before

smile, and express this smiling through me spread

as presence, not mere resonance or mime

and though swept by alternate hope and fear,

haunted by ghosts both unborn and long dead,


Here is no mourning


Here is no mourning for what has not been.

These sounds of wind and rain on drums and strings

the elements themselves play through the seen

world we live in, on clustered, cluttered things,

prints of the rainbow, woodsmoke's whorls and scents,

snails' shells, rams' horns, hissing sands on dunes -

in hardy harmonies or wavering tunes

all echo, are each others' instruments.

Scant, scattered, thronged or banked in murmurings,

things being what they are, what they might mean

gets sounded, filled, on resonance between

waves' mountings, curves, arrivals, vanishings.

Such subtle blending of this now's refrain

coils now in always, now, and now again…


To light, in an interior


What else but you supports the strings and veils

meshed into things' appearances and cores?

Sifter of shadows each thing underscores

(thinghood itself being what your grace entails)?

What else but you is pivot for the scales

weighing this mazing criss-crossing white gauze

of net curtains against our walls and floors

shimmering or darkened, as day mounts and fails?

Fulcrum of diamond, balancing between

each thing and thing, space each thing must evince,

we cannot track you, but infer you, since

you are the means by which all things are seen

pouring now, overbrimming, into this,

measuring this this on your weightlessness.