Fatima Naoot

               Translated from Arabic by Katia Aoun Hage

                                                     Jeanne Bessette

                                                   Jeanne Bessette

The Suitcases

                    —Cairo, February 4, 2013


The suitcases

Hide behind the book piles

Maybe the traveler

Would forget

His flight. 


* * *

A suitcase whispers to her mates:

This is his Home!

Where does the young-man  go away

Leaving his homeland?

If he just opens the window

And listens,

He would hear

The mothers’ wails

Melting within the  chants

And minarets;

They are mourning their children in the squares

 And murmuring through their pain‪:

 “We love you Egypt!”

. . .

He ought not to travel!


‪* * *

Another suitcase says‪:

This morning,

While drinking his tea,

I snuck behind him

And tore his passport

Which he had left in my secret-pocket

 And sent a note to the departing planes

 To cling to the air

Amongst the clouds 

And to never land 


* * *

This is his home!

Why travel!

While the land is sobbing,

And the girls

Are incessantly praying?

How do lovers leave their beloveds? 

And go away?

He ought not to travel!


* * *


A heavy suitcase murmurs: 


Every time he folded a shirt inside my heart

I snuck it away from him

And expelled it out of my insides,

Then I locked myself into darkness

And slept with eyes wide open, 

But he

This traveler

Being such a stubborn Southerner

Before dawn

Broke all my locks

And stuffed again his shirts and coats inside my body

Filling me to the brim!

. . .

He ought not to travel!


* * *

The garments yell:

No worries from my side

Dear suitcases!

My fabric

Will not warm the coldness of his exile

And my threads

Being from the Egyptian land

Watered by the Nile 

Would never cover the strangers. 

. . .

I am by your side: 

He will never travel!


* * *

The immigrant young-man listens

To the sad whispers of the suitcases 


He smiles in grief

And admits:


This is my Home,

And the land of Thebes lives in me

As the good saint said once

Before he traveled to paradise,

Yet there,

In the far frozen countries,

My little sparrows

 Are still asking me:

“Will you come back?”

. . .

I have to travel

So that I can feed them wheat and barley.


* * *


Is a land

That fails to love her children, 

While the far frozen land

Warms the hearts of strangers

And immigrants!


* * *

By the door of the house

The suitcases lined up

And sang

A sad melody:

Let him go on his way O friends! 


Or the day after

He will return

Whenever our Homeland

Comes back again.


Fatima Naoot, born in Cairo in 1964, has published ten books: five poetic collections, four translated anthologies from English into Arabic, and one book of criticism.Her fifth volumeof poetry was awarded first prize in the Arabic literature section of the Literary Festival ofHong Kong in 2006. Naoot has attended many poetic festivals and committees intheMiddle East, Europe, and Latin America, and writes weekly columns in newspapers in Egypt and the Middle East. Her poetry has been translated into languages including English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese and Kurdish.She graduated from Ein Shams University in Cairo as an architect and worked in the field for ten years before devoting all her time to literature as a poet, writer and translator. 


Katia Aoun Hage was born in Cameroun, raised in Lebanon during the civil war, then moved to the United States where she resides with her husband and three children. Graduated from the University of Redlands with a Masters in Music Education, Katia is not a stranger in the art scene of the Inland Empire of Southern California. She has collaborated with choreographer Sofia Carrera at Riverside Community College, performed poetry and music at California State University San Bernardino, displayed her artwork at Art for Heaven's Sake and performed music in local venues. Katia Aoun Hage listens deeply to the voices inside, her own and those of her people, becoming a bridge between past and present, East and West, through her poetry, translations and artwork.