CITY POEMS by Moroccan poet Mbarek Sryfi

Mbarek Sryfie kikah
Mbarek Sryfie


Walking Down East Main Street


Walking down East Main Street

The sun glitters on the Kodak Building

Timidly caressing the rundown buildings

It has seen better mornings

As usual it searches for the early people picking up the free papers

A kid ahead of her parents flaps the doors of the dull colored empty newspaper bins

As she giggles


On Gibbs Street the smell of Java coffee

Fills the odorless sky

How many java cups must the city serve?

How many green days must the city celebrate?

How many beer bottles must the city open?


Farther down the street

The river silently runs under the bridge

Unaware of what is happening around it

Pretending or simply not caring

As the ducks smoothly make their landing

Safely on the water as they’ve always done



On a Bench in front of Java


There he sits

The blue hat hides his long hair

With a shaky hand he picks up a black bagel

Opens it

Spreads something white on it with his long fingers

Tries hard to bring it to his lips

Drops it

Picks it up

Blows on it and tries again

Slowly he begins to chew on it with his toothless mouth


The waiter drops something on the man’s open hand

A coin maybe, a regular

He might be

Part of the decoration or

What’s left of it


Slowly, he stands up

Leans against the light pole

And slowly disappears


On the same bench

Sits an old woman, a red hat on her head,

Chewing a slice of plain pizza

As she gazes away, far, far away

As she mumbles words to herself or someone

Seen by no one but her

She has seen better days

Her left hand shakes

As she holds the paper plate

When she stands up

And slowly disappears



Seated on the other curb

Two girls talking

And basking in the morning sunlight

One plays with her hair

Shuffles it

Pulls at it in the air

As if showering with the shy sunrays

Still pouring on the half empty

Half awake city

Suddenly, they stand

And slowly disappear


And I, waiting here

For someone else to sit on the empty bench

In front of the display window

Maybe someone else is writing about me

As I am writing these lines

And soon I will stand up

And slowly disappear as well



The Empty Stool


In the empty bar on the corner of the empty street

By the counter

Stands the stool


It’s been dry for quite some time

After the gentle hand of the waitress had wiped it

As she has done for the last ten years


How many people have sat

On the empty stool,

Given it some meaning,

A reason,

A purpose to be a stool



Here it stands empty,

Lonely like the woman

On the next stool.



The Quiet Street


On both sides of the quiet street

Cars, cars, cars,

Bumper to bumper

Almost touching


Next to the doorstep

A lonely empty cheap wine bottle


Near where someone sought refuge the night before.



The Fly


In the middle of Starbucks

Three chairs

Three people

The aroma of fancy coffees



Beep, beep, beep


Buzz, buzz, buzz

Calls the fly

Jumping from cup to cup


In an effort to remind the three people

Of its presence.



On a Bench in New York City


Half closed eyes

Puffy heavy eyelids

Tired of walking in circles

Ending up on these benches


He drinks his days away

Waiting for the long cold nights




Roaming the streets with his lost childhood

Dreams, hopes, ambitions and on and on


Roaming the streets with his heavy load

Hunger, filth, despair, and on and on


Wondering what force is keeping him

Day on day out, and on and on


Wondering whether there is a place for him

Whether it is better for him to be gone



To a third place somewhere

Between THAT place and this one down here

On a bench in New York



The Tall Red-Brick House


As soon as you turn right

You’ll see it


Do you see it? Do you see it?

There. Right. There

Stands the tall red-brick house


The tall red-brick house stands

Bursting in pride

My friend’s voice choked

All the tears have been cried

… Then, he suddenly smirked

At some thoughts that crossed his mind


I grew up here

Some seventy years ago


I played, I ran, … I loved

Some fifty years ago



In front of the tall red-brick house

In the long street

I could hear his mother

Calling them in for a treat,

The siblings running after each other.


In front of the tall red-brick house

I heard a faint sigh

And I looked away

Letting space and character defy

The tyranny of passing time.



The Street at the End of the Day


Silent signs

Dull symbols

Plethora of smells

Echoes of sounds

Traces of footsteps

Greasy fingerprints

Dogs, cats, mice, roaches


Each searching the remains of a day long gone



The Old Man and the Tree Stump


The old man leaned his back against a tree stump


Both began telling their stories



The Antique Frog Ashtray


On an old yard-sale table,

Lay an antique frog ashtray, lonely

Soon after the old man slipped away.


The old caretaker woman

Took a look at the ashtray:

This will remind me of him.


Next to the antique coffee table

The old man used to sit, lonely,

Proud of his pipe and the antique ashtray.


$3.50, said the son.

But I cared for him for many years.

$3.50, repeated the son.


The man, the pipe, and the ashtray

Are worth more. How about $4.50? said she —

Or maybe it’s worth even more. How about $5.50? said he.


The old caretaker, appalled, thought:

Is this what a great life ends up being?

Every piece of it sprawled out

On an old table for a yard-sale spree?



Breakfast for Two


At my dining table

The spider at my window and I



Holding our breath

As the fly

Buzzes by,


Fluttering its wings, the bug

Darts back and forth, careless

Showing its prowess

Unaware of the eternal hug



The Story Teller


A thousand-year old smile

Lights up her face

As she narrates the place


Graceful words

Mythical moves

Of the hand

As she narrates the land

Of the free

Her mythical hair

Swaying with the magical drum beat

That fills the air

As she narrates a different beginning to the land of the free

Buried under layers of new history






Tirst published by:

City Poems, Centre d’Études des littératures et des Arts d’Afrique du Nord (CELAAN), Vol. XI, No. 3, Fall 2013