‘No Way But The Way’

You pick where you start
but the end picks you,
and there’s only one road. Zombies in the streets. Here’s Suneela Mubayi’s “Note from A Traveler”:
Upon seeing death  
cleansing itself at the fountain of ablutions  
while people crossed the streets asleep  
It seemed my dreams were pyramids of sand
And i glimpsed my day slipping away
far from that cursed city  
in the opposite direction  
We choose the beginning  
But the end chooses us  
And there is no way but The Way  
Similarly, Matt Boot’s version is both conservative and clever:

Another attempt that stays close to the original is Mishka M. A third variation (in which the translator says she “tried to do it justice by forcing a sort-of-form on a poem that exudes its classical-style beauty through its rejection of that form itself”) is Eva Kahan’s:
A Travelogue:
When I saw:

Death: drawing purity from a water spout
The People: all, walking, sleeping, through the alleyways

It seems, in dreams, my sandcastles give out –
I noted, fleeing far away, my day
Far from this city: castaway. Finally, there is Marco Franco’s Italian:

Khaled Osman’s French:

And Lucia Admiraal’s Dutch:

I’d like to end with Alexander Key’s powerful “Travel Note”:

Youssef Rakha is an Egyptian novelist, essayist and poet who writes in both Arabic and English. I would definitely encourage readers to seek out the ones not included here. An entirely different, slower rhythm can be heard in Rachel Schine’s approach:
Another version that takes freedoms in a different way is Tim DeMay’s:
Then I saw Death make wudu in the fountain
and those around walk the streets asleep —
        my dreams seemed   pyramids of sand
        falling before me
               and from the corner of my eye
               the daylight fled opposite this doomed city…
First we choose what chooses us last;
the path is the only path. ‘No Way But The Way’

ArabLit hosted our fifth   edition of the Arabic Translation Challenge starting June 9, 2020:
By Youssef Rakha
First, two quick remarks:
– It’s heart-warming to see Sargon’s voice transmogrify in so many ways and across four languages; and
– My choice of entries has less to do with my assessment or preferences than a general sense of balance. Daylight escapes
out of this hell-hole. I glimpsed my day
Scurrying away
From the damned City. My dreams are made of sand,
collapsing. We set out;
Where we go, will find us –
We wind this route;
No other kind. Mourani’s:
When I saw Death
Cleansing himself at the fountain,
And the people around me
Sleepwalking in the streets,
My dreams appeared as pyramids
Of sand
Collapsing before my eyes. Mariam Aboelezz makes an attempt at rhyme:

Hamid Ouyachi’s version is interesting for its bold, disorienting choices (including an Arabic gloss on one of the words used in the original):Aidan Kaplan takes offers his own sparse interpretation:
I looked:
Death is getting ready. Commenting on the initial post, a friend of mine was kind enough to suggest that my more or less literal version didn’t require too much improvement to work as an adequate translation of the poem, and I want to start with a rather subdued version that strikes a tone very like the original’s. He can be found on therakha.net, on Twitter @Sultans_Seal and on YouTube. He is the founding editor of the bilingual literary website тнє ѕυℓтαη’ѕ ѕєαℓ: Cairo’s coolest cosmopolitan hotel, named after his acclaimed first novel,   The Book of the Sultan’s Seal.  
We choose the beginning
But the end chooses us
There is no other road
Than the Road.