Wail of the Arab Beggars of the Casbah [excerpt]

. . .

The hands of the poor people
of the Casbah
are long and thin and stretched like the roots
of potatoes.
The voice of the poor people
is frail,
they have round eyes
and ugly mugs,
like Pepe Le Moko's when he's sloshed on the Rue
du Regard one rainy
near the Grevin Museum.

Now a minute of silence. . . 
two hours of minutes of silence
in memory of those dead of hunger
in memory of those dead from the cold
in memory of those dead of an overdose of sleep
in memory of those dead broke
and a stop-right-there; after you; no, you first; no, you
in memory as well
of the living dead, who are neither too dead nor too alive
but nonetheless are
for want of something better.

One day
I set about counting the poor people 
in the streets of my Casbah
The beggars were enumerating their vermin:
fleas, lice, bedbugs with wrapping included.
There's only one sun for everybody,
for the Americans and for the Cannibals.

. . .

From Wail of the Arab Beggars of the Casbah by Ishmael Ait Djafer. Translated by Jack Hirschman. Copyright © 2004 by Jack Hirschman. Published by Curbstone Press. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Dist. Reprinted by permission of Curbstone Press. All rights reserved.