Against the Dying of the Light

Against the Dying of the Light
A.Z. Foreman

I have not strength to save what now is ending
Or turn the world. But I'll not yield to this
Horizon-bloodying brutish Dark descending
With bladed gleam. Those feet I will not kiss. 
I do have eyes to see what is impending:
The resurrection of the knife, of bliss
In innocence, as voices die defending
The right to cry, out in the wilderness. 
Let me have mind enough to writhe in the choke
Of chains, and dream the light. Come that black dawn,
Let me have strength to speak as others' spoke
Who held to reason in their rhyme: lay on,
Damned times, you will not break me to defeat me.
The only thing that you can do is beat me.

But A Dream

But a Dream
A.Z. Foreman

I dreamt I saw the people come together
To meet old me, their eyes forever young
Turning as all a planet to their brother,
Singing hello as in another tongue:
"We are the face of centuries ahead,
The human race become its own reward
Of love, alive long after you are dead."
And then an angel, laughing, drew his sword

And sliced my mouth into a smiling gash.
His gold chains yoked my throat, choking me dumb
And I heard through his teeth the tonguelike lash
That said "I am the shape of days to come.
Old hungers' resurrection and the knife.
The only future you will see in life."

The Paramorphosis, by Abdulelah Abdulqader

The Paramorphosis1
A Short Story, by Abdulelah Abdulqader
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The bride was shocked by the weird creature bursting into her bedroom, claiming to be her husband. Terrified, she cried for help from everybody who had come dancing in procession to this girls' orphanage, this sacrificial altar to which she had been lead like a lamb or goat to be slaughtered in the phony sacrament of matrimony.

Sulaf had not seen the groom before. Rather, she had relied on a color photograph of her supposed groom-to-be. The groom, she had been told, was nicknamed "Ray"2 for his radiant, luciferous face. She grudgingly agreed to marriage, faced with with the insistence of her parents, brothers and the entirety of her family, who might as well have been conspiring to send a lamb to her slaughter.

People came when they heard the bride's scream, thinking something awful must have happened to her, but were nonetheless surprised by her absolute refusal to marry him and her declaration that she had no knowledge of this creature. She asked to see the man from the picture she was shown at her betrothal.

The groom's mother denied everything, insisting that "Ray" was the man from the picture and that the bride must simply not have checked carefully enough. The bride's mother was astounded at the entity standing erect in the middle of the stylish wedding suite, demanding what was his by right as a husband, rebuffing any attempt to get between him and his new bride, and clearing the bridal suite of everyone who didn't belong there. They even forced the bride's mother out and locked the door, for all the bride's protestations as she sobbed and cried for help.

The picture itself was of a handsome man with a smooth, suave, lustrous face and a turquoise gleam in his eyes. It was like a reprinted poster of a movie star from the the Golden Age of Hollywood. The reality, however, was a different matter entirely. The creature that had startled the bride by bursting in and claiming to be the groom had quite a different physiognomy, bearing no resemblance whatever to the picture.

It was a midget no taller than 1.3 meters. Numerous illnesses, of which the last was smallpox, had afflicted him in early childhood without respite, stripping him of all human features. He had lost one eye, and the pox had left him a pock-punctured lid over the other, drilling countless and untreatable pockmarks all over his face as well. Smallpox and polio, however, had not been content with this deformation, but had left him bent and twisted arms, and the gate of a duck with a fractured pelvis. Even the hair of his head was ailing. Bits of it had fallen out over time, leaving half of his head bald, though he could still take some pride in the few strands remaining on the other half which he used to cover the bald one.

Bizarrely enough, "Ray" did not see himself as deformed or physically abnormal at all, and in fact thought himself handsomest young fellow around, as though he hadn't suffered all those illnesses in early life, hadn't been stripped of all natural human features.

Sulaf refused to submit to him as a wife. She was convinced that a despicable con had been perpetrated, that she and her family had been credulous dupes when they put their faith in a picture which the groom's mother had brought with her from the south in search of a beautiful wife for what she portrayed, through the fraudulent image, as her handsome son.

"Ray" was immovable and insistent, swearing that he would lock her up in the room for the rest of her life, if she didn't yield to him and accept him as a husband now that she had been lawfully agreed upon with the proper authorities.

Nobody from her family, which was from another city, could take action through state or religious law. Her mother was on her own, powerless and without any acquaintances in this city which she had traveled to in order to introduce her daughter to a prospective groom.

"Ray" locked the door with a steel chain, but was incapable of subduing the resistant Sulaf who rejected him as a groom and demanded a divorce, offering in exchange to waive all her marital and material rights as a wife. However, "Ray", his mother, his father and his brothers refused, declaring that divorce was absolutely out of the question, that her choice was either to be "Ray's" faithful wife or stay imprisoned in the room until she rotted.

It was not long before everyone in every house and alley nearby had heard about the wedding that had occurred, and the ruse concocted by "Ray" - a man notorious in the area for his ugliness and amorality, and an appearance terrifying beyond anything a human mind could conceive of. They knew, too, that this might be in reaction to the entire city's refusal to wed him to any of their daughters.

However widely the story spread from house to house and street to street, nobody could do anything to change matters. The bridal suite was still secured with a steel chain and a foolproof lock. Sulaf was still incarcerated in the room day and night. "Ray"'s visits to his bride's room were met harshly and obstinately by the despairing bride. Yet "Ray" continued to threaten her with the need to take what was his by right as a husband, and Sulaf responded by threatening to kill herself if he came any closer.

Her father and brothers came and attempted to reach a compromise by returning the dowry twofold to solve the predicament of their daughter who had fallen into a trap due to their negligence and failure to verify matters. They bitterly regretted that they had not had the bride meet her suitor, that not even one of them had actually met him. Yet "Ray" stood his ground, impugning their honor and manhood, demanding that the legitimacy of his marriage be acknowledged.

His mother goaded him to take what was his by force:

"You aren't a man. Cause if you were a man you'd have broken the bitch and fucked her like you should."3

That night, "Ray" entered the room, bolted the door, mounted Sulaf at gunpoint and took her virginity. His mother, brothers and sisters were dancing as he left the fortified room in victorious ecstasy, proclaiming his manhood which had up till that moment been in doubt. All anybody heard was the wailing of a broken and ruined woman.

"Ray" went out with his friends and sisters to celebrate at a bar nearby. He drank all he possibly could with his friends, before staggering home for a sweet and tender night with his new wife, delicate as the lissom bough of a Bān-tree.

He was surprised to find his neighbors and a crowd of other people outside the door of his house. Screams and wails were issuing from the windows as he noticed an ambulance and a police car parked outside. He was too drunk to discern the reason for all this congregating, and would have been unable to process the scene that betrayed what had happened, had not a policeman stopped him to let the detectives pass by as they carried away the cadaver of Sulaf who had shot herself.


1- The title of the original, Al-Maskh is quite loaded. The word Maskh means a great many things, including: deformity, monstrosity, transformation and misrepresentation. Moreover, Al-Maskh is the title of the Arabic translation of the novella by Kafka known to English speakers as The Metamorphosis, and the allusions to Kafka's story by no means end there. My English title, from a Greek word for "deformation," is the best fit solution I could think of.  

2 - "Ray" is the name I have used as a rough equivalent to the nickname Abū Nūr (lit. "Father of Light") found in the original. Abū Nūr is in fact a common sobriquet name for men, but here is more ironic than the word's own translation can convey.

3. This sentence is in colloquial Iraqi dialect in the original, and has been translated very freely.

عبد الاله عبد القادر

فوجئت العروس بمخلوق غريب يقتحم مخدعها، مدعياً أنه زوجها، صرخت من خوفها مستغيثة بكل الذين جاءوا يرقصون لهذا الميتم، والمذبح الذي سيقت له مثل شاة أو عنزة لتذبح على محراب الزوجية الباطل.

 لم تر سولاف العريس من قبل، بل اعتمدت على صورة ملونة قيل لها إنها لعريسها المنتظر، وإن اسمه أبو النور مثل وجهه النوراني، ووافقت على مضض  أمام إصرار والديها وإخوانها والعائلة بأجمعها، وكأنهم يتعاونون على إرسال الشاة إلى مذبحها.    
حضر الناس على صراخ العروس ظناً منهم أنها وقعت في مكروه، إلا أنهم فوجئوا برفضها الشديد للزواج وإعلانها عدم معرفة هذا المخلوق، وطلبت أن ترى صاحب الصورة التي عرضت عليها عند خطبتها.

أنكرت أم العريس، وأصرت على أن الصورة لـ"أبو النور" وأن العروس لم تدقق جيداً، واستغربت أم العروس من شكل الكائن الذي وقف منتصباً وسط غرفة العرس الأنيقة، مطالباً بحقوقه الشرعية، رافضاً التدخل في علاقته مع عروسه، طارداً كل الدخلاء الذين هرعوا إلى غرفة العرسان، حتى أم العروس أخرجوها بالقوة من الغرفة وأغلقوا الباب رغم رفض العروس وصراخها وبكائها واستغاثتها.

كانت الصورة لشاب جميل، وجهه ناعم ومصقول وعيناه تلمعان مثل فيروزتين، صورة كأنها استلت من صور نجوم هوليود أيام عزها، غير أن الواقع يختلف تماماً، فالمخلوق الذي فاجأها بدخوله مدعياً أنه العريس له شكل ثانٍ لا يمُتُّ بصلة للصورة

إنه قزم لا يزيد طوله على متر وثلاثين سنتمتراً، وكانت أمراض عديدة آخرها الجدري  قد أصابته مبكراً في طفولته فلم تمهله أو تترك له صفات بشرية، فقدَ عيناً وترك له الجدري عينه الأخرى بعد أن ثقب جفنه، كما ثقب وجهه بثقوب لا تحصى، لا علاج لها، إلا أن الجدري وشلل الأطفال لم يتركا "أبو النور" الطفل ويكتفيا بهذا التشويه، بل أصيبت يداه بالاعوجاج ومشيته أصبحت كمشية بطة مكسورة الحوض، حتى شعر رأسه لم يسلم، فتساقط الشعر وأصبح أقرعَ من جانب واحتفظ ببعض الشعيرات التي يعتز بها في الجانب الآخر لتغطية الجانب الأقرع.

العجيب أن "أبو النور" لا يجد في شكله إشكالية أو غرابة، وهو يعتبر نفسه أجمل شباب جيله كما لو لم يصب بكل تلك الأمراض مبكراً وتفقده كل الصفات الطبيعية للبشر.
سولاف رفضت الانصياع له كزوجة، واعتبرت أن خدعة خسيسة أوقعت بها، وأنها وأهلها كانوا مغفلين حينما اعتمدوا على صورة تحملها أم العريس من الجنوب متوجهة إلى الشمال للبحث عن زوجة جميلة لابنها الجميل، كما كانت تدّعي من خلال الصورة التمويهية التي حملتها معها.

أبو النور القاسي والشديد أقسم أن يسجنها في غرفتها طيلة حياتها إن لم تنصع له وتقبله زوجاً، بعد أن كان قد عقد عليها بالوكالة شرعاً.

لم يستطع أحد من عائلتها المتواجدين في مدينة أخرى من التصرف أمام القانون والشرع، وأمها وحيدة ضعيفة لا تعرف أحداً في هذه المدينة التي جاءت لتزف ابنتها إلى عريسها المرتقب.

أبو النور أغلق باب الغرفة بسلاسل حديدية بعد أن عجز من السيطرة على ثورة سولاف ورفضها له كعريس، طالبة الطلاق متنازلة عن كل حقوقها المادية والشرعية، إلا أن "أبو النور" وأمه وأباه وإخوته رفضوا، وأقسموا جميعاً أن لا طلاق البتة ، وأن مصيرها مع "أبو النور" زوجة مطيعة وإلا ستظل في محبسها حتى تتفسخ.

انتشرت الحكاية في كل البيوت المجاورة، والسكيك القريبة عن الزواج الذي حدث والحيلة التي رتبها أبو النور الشهير في كل المنطقة بقبحه وبسوء أخلاقه، وشكله المخيف الذي لا يتوازى معه أي شكل يمكن أن يتصوره إنسان، ولربما كان رداً لفعل رفض أهالي المدينة تزويج بناتهم له.

على الرغم من تعدد الحكايات وانتقالها من بيت إلى آخر ومن شارع إلى زقاق، إلا أن أحداً لم يستطع أن يغير الواقع. ظلت غرفة العروس مغلقة بالسلاسل الحديدية، وبقفل كبير غير قابل للكسر، وظلت سولاف محبوسة في داخل الغرفة أياماً وليالي، وكانت لزيارات "أبو النور" المفاجئة لغرفة عروسه ردود فعل حادة وشديدة من العروس اليائسة، بل زاد أبو النور تهديداته بضرورة حصوله على حقوقه الشرعية، بينما قابلته سولاف بالتهديد بالانتحار لو تقرب منها.

جاء أبوها وإخوتها وحاولوا إيجاد حلول وسط وإعادة قيمة المهر مضاعفاً للعريس لحل إشكالية ابنتهم التي وقعت في فخ نتيجة غفلتهم وعدم تدقيقهم في الأمور، وتحسروا لأنهم لم يسمحوا بتعرف العروس على خطيبها، أو حتى أن يتعرف أحدهم عليه والالتقاء به، إلا أن "أبو النور" وقف أمامهم يكرّ ويفرّ بوجوههم، متحدياً كل شواربهم ورجولتهم ومطالباً بشرعية زواجه.

حرضته أمه على أخذ حقوقه بالقوة:

- أنت مو رجال، لو رجال چان أخذت حقك وكسرت خشمها وصخمت وچها.

في الليل دخل أبو النور الغرفة، وأحكم إغلاقها واعتلى سولاف بقوة السلاح، وأزال عذريتها.. رقصت أمه وأخواته وإخوته وهو يخرج من باب قلعته منتصراً ومنتشياً، معلناً عن رجولته المشكوك بها حتى تلك اللحظة بينما لم يسمع أحد إلا أنين امرأة محطمة ومكسورة.

خرج أبو النور وأصدقاؤه وإخوته للاحتفال بالحانة القريبة من البيت، شرب حتى الثمالة مع رفاقه، وعاد يترنح لينعم بليلة ناعمة مع عروسه الرقيقة مثل غصن بان.

فوجئ بجيرانه ورهط كبير من الناس يتجمهرون عند باب البيت، وصراخ وبكاء وعويل يصدر من شبابيك بيتهم، بينما لمح سيارة إسعاف وسيارة للشرطة وحراساً.. لم يتبين أسباب كل هذا التجمع من فرط سكره. ولم يستطع أن يستوعب المشهد الذي ينم عما فيه.. غير أن الشرطة أوقفته ليمر رجال التحري يحملون جثة سولاف التي انتحرت.

Original Poem: The Man in Rehab Answers the Priest

Answering the Priest after Six Months Sober
By A.Z. Foreman

I've fallen from an Eden of unconscience.
Forgive me, Father, but I think
You've gotten drunk on something in the chalice,
And I don't drink.

I have already sacrificed for spirits
Let wine pulse in my vains
Seen at the tunnels end a light of blinding
Fevers and pains.

So, Father, shove your Ghost where the Son don't shine.
You have been very kind.
But I did not free my brain of drink for you
To dope my mind.

I'll see my wife who somehow loves me still,
Hear music sweet as shattering chains,
Catch some good weather in a wretching world.
The heart remains

With questions pounding forth beyond the heavens
Through starred space where gods grasp for air and die,
Where supernovas burst with flowers' beauty.
I cannot answer why,

But I can let there be lightness, laugh while seeing
The dark night of the joke you've fallen for,
Making it crystal clear. I will say this
To you, and nothing more:

No greater glory has a human spirit
Than to dream of a real thing, and make it.
Your god should read the writing on the wall
Of heaven: HOMO FECIT.

Oh Say You Can See

We seem to understand it all one moment
Somewhere along the evening of the mind.
The twilight's last gleaming unfolds an omen
Before true nightfall comes to rob us blind.

Whoever you are, in next dawn's early light
Touch not just digits, but your neighbors hand.
And take your moments in with the full sight
We have forgotten. You must understand.

A 5th Museful Miscellany

Postmodernism is like a giant sculpture of a nose in tribute to the human olfactory sense, but made entirely out of freshly emitted human excrement. Only those with no sense of smell whatsoever can appreciate the artist's achievement, and ponder the inventive choice of building material, without ever getting wise to the irony. While anyone with a functioning nose is going to have a hard time believing how truly unintended the irony is.


Who is this A. Z. Foreman guy that wrote this stupid garbage in a review 3 years ago? I would never have written shite like this! Clearly he has much to learn.


Shit is like poop. The only way to avoid being full of it, at some point, is to not exist.


Maybe it's a perverse flipside of so much translation of poetry, but my own poetry is almost relentlessly untranslatable. Everything that makes translators pull their hair out: the extreme wordplay, ambiguity of register and syntax, explicit allusion to cultural phenomena....this I do. Obsessively. 2B or not 2B. Which is my apartment?


I think when I tell people they're full of shit, what I really mean a lot of the time is "You're so full of Heidegger"


I loathe any and all versions of "Blood and Soil" ideology. When it infects a dominant group, it mixes with smelly supremacist orthodoxies to form the kernel of Fascism or something kindred to it. (Indeed "Blood and Soil" was originally Blut und Boden.) When a version of it is clung to by a marginalized, subject or, by whatever definition, "indigenous" people, it often becomes one among many intellectual and political drags on the mind which do little good beyond offering comfort in the manner of a mirage

A 4th Museful Miscellany

Behind much talk of challenging power inequality, and attempted criticism of power structures, there lies no coherent, rational and secure vision of a better world, but an incoherent, insecure and irrational obsession with power itself, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself, a state of being. The seductive idea of power obscuring all other considerations. Much of this bloviation about "empowerment" in many circles seems to both perpetuate and mask a continued Enslavement, to a retrograde idea of Power Itself.


When a group feels that there is only one person who could lead them to salvation, and that person dies before delivering, it sometimes occasions a strange mass delusion that this dead person is either not really or not permanently dead, and that he (it is always a he) will return someday to at last deliver them from their woes and foes. Prominent cases include King Arthur, Constantine Palaiologos, the Twelfth Imam, and even in a way Jesus of Nazareth. Lordy does hope ever spring eternal from the fount of untruth.


There are some languages where different word-order may be as unimportant as that between a sleeping man, and a man sleeping. There are others where it is as crucial as the difference between a venetian blind and a blind venetian.


We're caught between particularist weasels, libertarian assholes, intellectual midgets and a very hard place indeed. God how I yearn now for the good old days of Scylla and Charybdis.


I'm glad the forbidden fruit Adam consumed was an Apple. Just think how much more damned we would all be if even the Fruit of Knowledge were running Windows.


Plato, you're full of shit. There is no evil in this changeful material world. But the world of our immutable ideals is crawling with it.