The Walls of Stockholm

“My name is carved into all the trees / and scribbled on all the buses / despite how I cannot write a single word… ”

September 11 2018 Wafai laila, translation by Barrie James Sutcliffe

Wafai laila was born in Damascus in 1964. She studied at the University of Damascus, Department of Philosophy. She has published six poetry collections, in Beirut, Damascus and Milan. The latest was about the experience of asylum in Sweden, where she arrived in 2015. Her last collection is called: “My name is four numbers. She lives in Katrineholm in Sweden.


The Walls of Stockholm


I masturbate every day to check 

that my erectile dysfunction is real 

I walk carefully believing that I am invisible 

and that the ground shakes beneath my feet 

I look in every mirror and think 

that I am not really there 

I take pictures of myself every day and… 


I eat my breakfast and go to school 

before the school bells that aren’t there ring 

I stand in a line that doesn’t exist 

and clench my hands over my stomach like an obedient pupil, 

fawn for the schoolmarm to get better grades, 

or so she will see past my lack of ability 

Every day I think I am the most 

intelligent student despite that my grades are among the lowest 

I convince myself that I am the most adept 

despite that I am the most average 

My name is carved into all the trees 

and scribbled on all the buses 

despite how I cannot write a single word… 

or perhaps just because I don’t dare to do it 

Every wall in Stockholm is smeared with my profanities 

I wear reflectors like a dog so that cars see me at night 

and carry a heavy rucksack for some reason 

that I am constantly trying to discern 


All I remember is that I have been erased 

I don’t know by whom 

or when 

I’m not even sure… 



Finally I have managed to fool the Europeans 


I am not especially tall 

And am not especially gifted 

My hair isn’t light 

I use contact lenses 

and don’t dither in fear when facing a social servant 

or when facing the thought that I don’t know a thing about this digital world 

I have managed to fool the traffic light 

and jaywalk without being noticed, 

managed to overcome the weather 

by convincing myself that the cold 

really is warm 

Nobody sees when I cry 

when they look into my teary eyes 

I paste on a smile so nobody suspects me of anything 

I’m not so dejected 

and don’t think about jumping from the first, best window 

I am not nervous when facing the thought I will be unemployed 

homeless and penniless 

I’m not afraid of anyone 

I eat healthy food and play sports 

I have a family 

and don’t drag out a thousand corpses, 

the names of the disappeared and sanguine poems 

I have managed to fool the Europeans, 

traveled with dignity and passed 

all their roadblocks and police hounds 

in a surprisingly professional way 

I gave a brilliant defense in court 

and now walk towards a respectable end 

Everyone says it’s not worth the bother 

and it won’t mean anything for me 

I have managed to fool the Europeans 

But I don’t know why everything still feels 

like a bitter failure