New Poetry: Rym Jalil’s ‘My Mother’s Kitchen’

It would be too much to be expelled

from your kingdom. كل يوم اضحك على نفسي

وأقول عارفاه

مطبخ امي المآسي مش سيعاه

خريطته معقدة ومفزلكة

وعليه ضابط مرور

لو انحنيت قصاده

ممكن تاخد تأشيرة عبور

Every day

I lie and say I know this place. I plump my soul, 

 give her gifts galore. 

*

Rym Jalil is a writer and poet based in Cairo. My mother’s kitchen 

brims with afflictions

I must pretend to befriend it

we all know it can have only one master 

from its beginning to its end 

مكان مقدس صعب زيارته

حيث كل المواجهات

ساعات حواديت حقيقية

والعادي ساحة خلافات

A holy place that’s hard to visit

every single confrontation within its walls. 

A few hours of truthful conversation

but mostly, a landscape of fights

ليه مش واجب سرد الماضي

كجزء من واقع آلافات

ليه مش من حقك تشارك

(كحجر أساسي في الحكايات)

Why isn’t it a duty to narrate the past

as part of a thousand present realities? 

Why isn’t it my right to share my story

(as a cornerstone of stories)? They are passionate about medicine, herbs, food, and the body. Would it hurt if there were space 

for two? My mother’s kitchen 

brims with afflictions

the map is complicated, annotated

and there’s a border guard; 

and if you submit and acquiesce,

your stay may be extended 

ضريبة التأشيرة صمت تام

(تسمع-تسمع-تسمع)

واخر وسيلة تواصل

هي الكلام

The admission tax is silence

(you will listen, you will listen, you will listen) 

there is absolutely no communication

in words. 

طاستين وكباية

نصيبك عشرين حكاية

وسط الف حقيقة

مش شايف لهم نهاية

two bowls and a cup

and your serving is twenty stories

buried in a thousand 

truths without end 

ياما سالت ع السر

وطلبت افهم بهدوء

بس مين يقر

ولا يكلمني بالذوق

سالت نفسي كتير

محتاجة كام سنة

يكون لي مساحة

ويكون مطبخي

I often asked for the secret 

many times I asked, peacefully, to understand

but nobody would reveal it

or speak to me, gently. Their work has been featured in The Outpost, Mada Masr, and the Contemporary Image Collective’s publications Taste of Letters, and the forthcoming Our bodies breathe underwater. *

A Kitchen of My Own

مطبخي الجديد انا حافظاه

عارفة كل ركن فيه وحباه

حيطانه بتحضن

أطباقه بتحتوي

واخدني زي ما انا

ووجباتي مكفياه

I’ve memorized my new kitchen 

every single corner of it’s loved:

 walls embrace

and plates hold. وانت رافضة تفتحيلي برطمان الخلطة

كأن وجودي في حياتك

(غلطة)

كان بدون خطة

انت رافضة تتقبلي كياني

حتى لو بمحض الصدفة

And you refuse to unscrew your spice jar for me

my presence in your life

(a mistake)

unplanned and unintended. Punishments now are my own to decide. In her poetry, mostly written in Egyptian dialect, she uses autobiographical events and abstract imagery interchangeably. Most recently, she worked alongside other artists and writers eventually leading to a collective online publication “Our Bodies Breathe Underwater,” which featured three of her poems. oftentimes, I asked

how many years would it take 

to have my own space 

my own kitchen. Her first published poem, “Higher Power,” was a collaboration with Sara Fakhry Ismail, which was released as part of a series of events on independent publishing at Cairo Image Collective in September 2020. فهمت من رصة بهاراتها

انها محبكاها حبتين

كان هيجري ايه لو فيه مكان

لاثنين

 The arrangement of her spices

shows she will not budge. She wrote her first poem at the age of nine. you refuse to accept the core of me

even if accidentally

سنين معافرة

بشوف كتير

بحاول ادور على فكرة

مدخل للتغيير

بس متعودتش اشوف

في الضلمة

ولا اتعودت أحب

مجاملة

Years of struggle

I’ve seen a lot 

I’m trying to spin an idea

find a way to change

but I’m not used to seeing 

in the dark 

and I don’t like

pretending. Jalil holds a BA in Radio and TV broadcasting from Ain Shams University. 

Mariam Boctor is a writer, translator, researcher, and curator based in Egypt. New Poetry: Rym Jalil’s ‘My Mother’s Kitchen’

These two poems originally appeared in ArabLit Quarterly’s KITCHEN issue, published in the summer of 2021 and edited by Nour Kamel. They love cats and sing sometimes. رقصت مع الملح بحرية

اكتشفت حقايق تشرح

قهوتي في ساعة صبحية

تروق على دماغي

 بالتحميصة اللي هي

I dance freely with the salt 

I chance upon truths that ease my heart 

my coffee at dawn

tickles my brain 

with just the right roast

معودتش أخاف من الشطة

بقيت اكلها بمزاجي

بل وبرحب بيها كفكرة

حتى في لحظات الضيق

باخد نفس

(عميق)

وبلساني بدوق العبرة

I’m no longer afraid of the chili pepper

 and eat it on my own terms.  I welcome it 

even in moments of trouble

I take a breath 

(deeply)

and my tongue tastes the lesson. الازمة مش في المساحات

لكن في احتواء الاختلافات

ان كنت ناوي ع القبول

ضميرك حتماً هيحاسبك

اصل مش من الأصول

تطرد من مملكتك

It’s less an issue of space 

than of spanning differences

and even if you could yield 

your ego would resist. يوم ما حرقت الزيت شوية

كافئت نفسي بكنافة محشية

اصل عقابي دلوقتي قراري

اطبطب علي روحي

واجيبلها هدية

The day I slightly burned the oil

I treated myself 

to stuffed kunafa. It takes me as I am 

and my meals are enough 

في مطبخي الجديد مفيش موانع

اني اعك

اني اسرح

وعلي وقتي الخاص اخترع

وصفات تفرح

In my own kitchen there are no restrictions 

on screwing up 

on daydreaming 

or on my own time inventing recipes 

to relish. For Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), we share them here:

Two Poems By Rym Jalil

Translated by Mariam Boctor

*

My Mother’s Kitchen

كل يوم اضحك على نفسي 

وأقول عارفاه

مطبخ امي المآسي مش سيعاه

لابد بناء علاقة سطحية

اكمنه له سيد واحد

من بداية الامر لمنتهاه

Every day I lie and say 

I know this place.