Editors' note: Shaimaa El-Sabbagh was killed on January 24th of this year by the Egyptian police while demonstrating in memory of the 800 people killed during the 2011 revolution. She was a poet, a scholar, a mother, and a revolutionary socialist. Her death highlights the repressive obstacles that still face the struggle for freedom in Egypt.Alexander Billet's brief take on her work can be read here. Red Wedge reprints two of her poems here in her memory.
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A Letter In My Purse
I am not sure
Truly, she was nothing more than just a purse
But when lost, there was a problem
How to face the world without her
Because the streets remember us together
The shops know her more than me
Because she is the one who pays
She knows the smell of my sweat and she loves it
She knows the different buses
And has her own relationship with their drivers
She memorizes the ticket price
And always has the exact change
Once I bought a perfume she didn’t like
She spilled all of it and refused to let me use it
By the way
She also loves my family
And she always carried a picture
Of each one she loves
What might she be feeling right now
Or disgusted from the sweat of someone she doesn’t know
Annoyed by the new streets?
If she stopped by one of the stores we visited together
Would she like the same items?
Anyway, she has the house keys
And I am waiting for her
I'm the Girl Banned From Christian Religion Classes
I’m the girl banned from attending Christian religion classes, and Sunday mass
Although I am a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus
In Train Station Square at the height of the morning
Even then, all the windows were open and the blood was racing the cars on the asphalt
The eyes of the girls were running in Heaven, catching the forbidden rocking chair.
I am the girl banned from love in the squares
I stood in the middle of the street and gathered in my hand the stars of the sky, individually,
And the sweat of the street vendors
The voices of beggars
And the people who love God as they damn this moment that the creatures of God approved
To crucifying Jesus naked in the crowded square on the clock arms as it declared one at noon
I, the girl banned from saying no, will never miss the dawn
These poems were published in English at ArabLit.org. They were translated by Maged Zaher and were republished here with his permission.
Shaimaa El-Sabbagh was an Egyptian poet and revolutionary. She was killed by police on January 24th, 2015.