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A mural painted by the artist eL Seed in a part of Cairo inhabited by garbage collectors (Manshiyat Naser) quotes a third-century Coptic bishop: “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes.” (Credit: David Degner for The New York Times)

You read the words of Mahmoud Darwish,

his nostalgia, revolution and melancholia swirl the desert dust over times and places

to reach your eye.

Yes, I swear. This is how the tear settled on my dry cheek.

And Nizar Qabbani whose eroticism, love and poetic (but also political) fight for social justice make you tingle and long for something.

You don’t know what it is you seek or long for

something that the poem will never make tangible.

You let the words and language sink in

You notice how smoothly your eyes glide across the Arabic calligraphy on the yellowed pages

How much easier internalizing their words and worlds is getting

You sense the physical and metaphysical barriers dissolving

Barriers of your many selves.

The displaced and the disowned,

or like Edward Said, those “out of place.”

The one that claims she’s home,

but will always have a soft spot for a man who speaks in her tongue.

Tongues intertwine as the barrier gradually shifts

What put it there? How and when did it come into being? Who let it? Who is to blame?

The blame game makes it easier.

You think, dream, make love and write in another’s tongue

Some would say a colonizer’s tongue.

Yours is shackled by a barbed wire,

the same one endlessly running through Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

Is it a barbed wire, or streaks of crimson blood interlaced with dirt left behind from the last missile?

Or perhaps it’s the red wine you spilt trying to reach for the glass

after a touching poem, or a great orgasm.

But you let it.

You were happy about it at some point of time. To be fluent in many other languages

as yours rots and decays like the slums and streets of Cairo.

Cairo.

A permanent layer of dust, grey ashen dust, seems to have settled on everything

from decayed buildings to jagged streets,

to a man’s once white galabeya,

and most probably to the Coptic woman’s black attire.

You just can’t see it, because black hides it all. Even her son’s blood.

You observe as your chauffeur drives you in the air-conditioned car.

You’re disgusted.

You’re disgusted not at the sudden hyper-awareness of your privilege, but at your privilege itself.

Your privilege and pacifism.

You go back to your book.

You’ll write about this, you think.

You should do something

…one day.

But will you?

You arrive at the pub downtown.

Your friends already ordered the red wine.

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On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

Watching the sun’s last rays glisten on the waves of the Mediterranean as its burning flame anticipates being quenched by the Sea’s cool water, I listen to Yasmine Hamdan’s raspy Lebanese dialect as she sings of Sehnsucht and heartache (watch video here) . Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, these are things I have long since experienced.

As the tip of a bottle teases my lips and the icy drink fools around with my tongue and taste buds, I catch myself subconsciously trying to translate the song’s words and expressions into a language he would understand. Maybe I’ll have him listen to it one day. But its artistic and musical value wouldn’t be enough: he would want to understand the driving force behind the creation of this beauty.

The translation was a simple matter of finding the correct vocabulary, but that wasn’t what I was listening for. The soul of the song dimmed with the setting of the sun. The more I tried to find ways to convey it in his tongue, the more the song’s flame and passion became frail and shadow-like, until eventually the melody seemed only a ghost of what it was before I tried to capture it.

The song was lost and I brushed it off. Suddenly, I missed how he makes me feel like the goddess of that glistening golden sun embracing the Mediterranean. I remember this lurking uneasiness I had in the back of my head. A fear of loss. Loss of oneself, loss of language and identity in the process of merging cultures. But I’m starting to see now the malleability of one’s identity and how it’s constantly simply getting richer with the fusion of others’; it is all-consuming, like a sponge, or like the sea.

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a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh”. (Credit: Alona Cohen)

a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh. (Credit: Alona Cohen)

I thiNk of love More than aNythiNg else.

My skin always Bruised very Easily

It is the oNly Physical RepReseNtatioN of How My MiNd experieNces life.

My soul TurNs Black aNd Blue as easily as My skin Does.

From the smallest Bumps, EvEn a Good thinG

If pRessed too lonG, too strongly.

The iNk emBedded iN my skin is the other side of life, the hiGh.

WheN I Got my last tattoo, a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh, the skiN Bruised.

She was Blue, theN Yellow.

It took heR as lonG to Get heR coloR RiGht

As it does me to Get used to life EveRy time.      

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Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

After about four months of classes and 5 months in Germany,  I find myself in German A2, well aware that German — with its random articles and various cases, not to mention the seemingly impossible sound that lingers in the gap between ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ — is a difficult language to learn. But there is good to be found in the language learning process. German relies heavily on compound words, which anyone can invent and use whenever they so desire, while still remaining grammatically correct. This allows for amazing specificity and has resulted in many odd, whimsical sounding names for various objects and ideas.

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“The Wait” is a short fiction piece by guest contributor Elena Gagovska, a BA2 student in the HAST program at BCB

Christina felt bored waiting in line at the insurance office and tapped her little finger against her chin obsessively. She was there to renew the health insurance for her  two-year-old. It wasn’t a complicated procedure, really, but, just as I would be, Christina was scandalized at the fact that she had to physically go to a place to get something that she thought could easily be computerized. Actually, Christina had a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. But she just worked as tech support for a small law firm and lacked a column or blog-type platform  on which to express and publish her thoughts. When the urge to tell the world how she perceived it started overwhelming her a few years ago, Christina opened a Twitter account under the alias “ITBoredom”. It was more of a way to express her dissatisfaction with her job and current affairs than an intellectual megaphone.

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► Monday: Kreuzberg – Amerika

phot

As a part of the collaborative project Werkstatt für Photographie 1976 – 1986, this exhibition traces the history and influences of the Berlin based photography institute to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The renown of this institute is a result of its innovative approach towards photography as an independent form of art and a means of cultural expression. Over 250 photographs, both iconic and lesser known, are featured in this exhibition. They include works from 70s and 80s West Berlin as well as the United States.

  • When: 11:00 – 20:00
  • Where:  Amerika Haus – Hardenbergstraße 22–24, 10623 Berlin
  • Admission: 6€
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A poem in two parts.

Pt. I

I was born to this old and broken house

and now it sits, aflame,

and I weep.

we live in a mostly burning neighborhood;

we watch as we set our own fires;

we know we have been swimming in gasoline

since we moved in.

“why are you shocked?”

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A scene from Berlin Diary (Credit: Jerun Vahle on NPR Berlin)

A scene from Berlin Diary (Credit: Jerun Vahle on NPR Berlin)

Backless chairs are a bold choice for a theater, I thought as I sat on a stiff ledge at English Theater Berlin, the city’s international performing arts center. Backless chairs say, “You will be so riveted by this play that you won’t even consider leaning back.” Backless chairs also say, “Comfort is not the point of this experience. As such, the expectations were high for Berlin Diary, which premiered this past October.

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