Poems from Sudan

by Abed Elrahim Abu Zakrra
Translated from the Arabic by Bakhit Bakhit with Aron Aji



     alone, lost on your night drive
a day since early autumn called
with snow and radiant fields

     alone, lost on your night drive
washing away summer’s lassitude
my cold brow, my silence anchored
atop wooden houses
masking its bewilderment
behind trees, river’s dusk
receding vistas

     driving away you had waved
early autumn winds
stirred my anxious sails
ushered heavenly sunlight
into my secluded corridors

wait, wait for me
I’m driving in the night
acutely alone, wait
wait for me on the remote byways
wait for me in the desert, the skies
at the sea, wait
when the orbits collapse
and yesterday’s sky darkens
wait for me

If I drift from silence to silence
ashamed of my face, if my feet are unsteady,
it is because they said: bow your head,
keep it down, now, look down at your feet,
forget the sea, the mountains, the clouds,
forget the horizon.
I have grown accustomed to silence,
the shame, the shaky footsteps.

But my head grows heavier and heavier
And when you ask me to raise my head,
I can’t–each step is a trap,
each choice a minefield.
I hear the volcanos’ deadly rumbling,
ash rains like bullets.
Who dares to hold up his head
beneath these thunderous volcanoes?


Abed Elrahim Abu Zakrra (1943-1989) was a Sudanese writer, poet, and translator. One of the best known poets from Sudan, he held a Ph.D in Philosophy of Language from the Academy of Science in Moscow and also worked as the secretary-editor and supervisor of the Sudanese Culture Magazine in the 1970s.

Bakhit Bakhit, native of Sudan, has lived in the United States for the past decade. He is a translator from the Arabic, at the University of Iowa’s MFA program in Literary Translation.

Aron Aji, originally from Turkey, currently directs Iowa’s MFA in Literary Translation