Iman Mersal


Iman Mersal is the author of five books of poems and a collection of essays, How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts.  In English translation, her poems have appeared in The Paris ReviewThe New York Review of BooksThe Nation, and other publications.  Her most recent prose work, Traces of Enayat, received the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature in 2021.  She is a professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of Alberta, Canada. Source


translated from Arabic by Robyn Creswell


A ruthless catalog of sorrows:

years in front of the screen, diplomas before jobs,

and languages–all that torture–now ranged under Languages.

Where are all the wasted days? And the nights

of walking with hands stretched out

and the visions that crept over the walls?

Where are the feelings of guilt

and the sudden sadness faced with a little hill of fruit

atop a handcart in some forgotten street?

Years with no mention of the empty hours or the funerals,

expunged of black depressions and nibbled nails,

the house keys forgotten inside the house.

There isn’t a single open window

and no trace of the desire, deferred, to leap out.

A life overstuffed with accomplishments,

scrubbed free of dirt:

proof that the one who lived it

has cut all ties to the earth.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Poems of the Everyday

Literary Devices:

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered

Template Poem

a poem in which a poet uses a predetermined form to structure the poem. For example: a multiple-choice format, a recipe, directions, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Miranda Rights. A template poem borrows an already established form to provide structure and commentary.