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Nothing stays on the table except the trace of your hand…

Oxford Student PEN

This week, ORbits presents five translations of contemporary poetry in Arabic and French from Oxford Student PEN‘s recent translation workshop. Please see here for further information on the workshop’s origins and aims.



Your sleepy voice this morning reshapes the life that flows through my fingers…Open the door, and draw a threshold, distant mountains and a blue sky. Draw a house…There, a man is waking from his darkness…


After a normal afternoon. Nothing happened. A table with a drawer full of dead songs with none to sing. Four legs, two of them have the urge to be hands in another life.


One of these mornings, you will realise that you stood by the door dreaming, and that you were waiting for things which never existed. You ruined your hands making a bed, a table, a drawer to house what remains. Then you will start to fear the night, for you no longer await a friend’s visit and discover that your glass of wine was tainted. At that moment, you start to fear time, the kisses you never sent, the ones you never received. You will ask, one of these mornings, what was the point of these incomplete footsteps, and why the departed have departed. That morning, you will realise, amidst the boredom of this life, that you gain nothing from being alive.


Nothing stays on the table except the trace of your hand. The hand that held bread and wine, one day, the hand that touched a woman’s body, the hand that did not know what to write, except a night that surrounded you from all directions.

Iskandar Habash