Last Tuesday

translated by Katherine Hennessey

An abstract design featuring blues and greens fluidly mixing

Last Tuesday
I wasn’t enough of a poet
to note how the falling rain
would split the sky
It doused the fires in my heart
till its casing cracked
It hammered the pyramids of my mind
and washed a fool up onto the Sphinx’s throne
I carry thirty summers in a quiver of pointed questions
and they joined the water dance
Their most ethereal season
and their last

Last Tuesday
I read a column in a newspaper. It was clear as crystals
but its explanation of why sugar tastes sweet
didn’t make my mind water
Nothing tastes sweet to me since the first time my heart burned
When a woman told me I was “bitter sugar”
thirty somethings ago
as she passed me by in a familiar hell

Last Tuesday
my family realized I am an infidel
because all I know of religion is what God has told us

Translation from the Arabic

Ziyad Ahmed al-Qahem lives in Sana’a, where he works as a linguist and literary editor as well as a poet. His book If the Tip of Your Dream Could Fly was awarded Yemen’s Presidential Prize for Young Authors’ Poetry in 2012. He is the author of the poetry collection Cracking the Moon (2013), and his poetic response to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 was featured in the short documentary Shakespeare in Yemen (2018).

Katherine Hennessey lived in Sana’a from 2009 to 2014, conducting research on contemporary Yemeni theater. She is the author of Shakespeare on the Arabian Peninsula and translator of two plays by celebrated Yemeni author Wajdi Al-Ahdal, A Crime on Restaurant Street and The Colonel’s Wedding. In 2020–2021 she was a Research Fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities.