ALAA HASANIN – Translated by: Ibrahim Al-Sharif
To Ashraf Fayad
When we were young
God would sneak in every night
to our toy boxes
to tidy them
so that our mothers won’t scold us
when we woke up in the morning,
we shared our sandwiches with him
took him with us on our school trips
and gathered, everyday, many candles
to prepare for his birthday.
God was our imaginary friend
and we saw him personified
in the heroes of all the tales
that our mothers would tell.
We saw God as all our heroes,
and every hero we saw we thought was God.
One time I thought God was our old neighbour
because everyday he would share his bread
with the street cats.
Another time I thought God was my mother
when I saw her gathering the clothes from the clothesline.
We would envision God
in the new classmate,
because he was smart and a had special colouring case,
and we would always wonder
how we would ask him to come with us
to the playground.
We would also wonder
what his favourite shoe colour is
the nickname that would make him angry each time someone called him by
and what he would do if someone poked him at the school line,
we would wonder if he was a bourgeois or a proletariat
if he wore a necktie
and if he cried everytime he heard an obscene curse.
We would wish that he would be a little older than us
stole the shoes of those praying from outside the mosque
and hid pictures of pretty girls under his pillow,
we would wish that he would lend us the pictures of his pretty girls
that he would hide with us under the stairs during prayer times
so that our parents wouldn’t drag us to the mosque.
We would wonder if he would let his hair grow long
when he turns fourteen
to spite the mosque’s imam and the school principal,
if he would refuse to cut his hair
whenever the zealots would scold him in the street
and call him a woman’s name,
if he would wear jeans
and a long gold necklace,
a necklace he doesn’t like
but only wears to express his anger.
We would wonder if he loved a girl
whom he never talked to,
heard her voice
but only loved
because her eyes were beautiful,
and if he spent his entire night
what her face looked like
without the burqa.
We used to think that God
could only be a friend.
And when we got a little older
God was standing in a public square
holding a sword
and carrying out executions
two streets away from our house.
When we got a little older
none of us would dare to think of God
without feeling our necks.