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Evening Street extract

Published on


Issue number: 2024:1


from Evening Street

by Aya Kanbar

translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel

In 2021, poet Aya Kanbar made her debut at just seventeen with the assured, highly charged collection Hyperverklighet (Hyperreality), published by Nirstedt/Litteratur. Exploring the porous, disorienting interfaces between our digital and material worlds, the collection received widespread acclaim, including nominations for numerous prestigious literary awards.

In her explosive second collection, Aftongata (Evening Street, 2023), Kanbar turns her attention to the teenage years. Structured largely through the interacting perspectives of a ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’, Kanbar offers a heady, romantic and often dark exploration of love, loneliness, destruction and the search for identity. Laced with striking, intimate imagery and references to mythology and pop culture, the sublime and the mundane alike, Evening Street is a rich, deep-felt collection from a poet in her stride.

The poems presented below are taken from the ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’ sections of the collection.

Aya Kanbar in striped shirt standing in front of shiny tiles
Aya Kanbar. Photo: Severus Tenenbaum.


from Evening Street


kicked clichés

our heliocentric rituals;
peach sky above
                                    melts in your eyes
                                                            & lands
                                    in your dreamy tears

the maestro killed us
but we fled
like obstinate teenagers
always do


a girl who smokes
& sells her body reluctantly
to illusionists
black magic in her bones,
ash in those few words

azrael is the shadow in front of me
she turns around
& smiles like a loyal friend

before an emerald green bottle
smashes the back of the head
in unconditional real time,
do you promise
you’d bleed for me
in a light pink pontiac
that you stole
from the friend you said
you never knew


an evening poem
of longing & jade crystal
for what will never
come to pass
my open window

let me predict & film
a spectacle society
i’m at the top of the cast

my eyes are the only cameras in the studio
you smile at me from the linoleum floor

i choose azrael as archangel
& ask her tongue
to stroke my trembling skin
i never believed
i’d be given this—
my name engraved in her
my blood on her teeth

i never understood
how bound you could be
can you explain it,
one last time?
you gave me my purpose in life —
to help & serve,
even if my body resists

you became an iconoclast
promise to wait for me
at the apartment of moonstone
after the class
winners like you
can rest,
you can exhale
that’s a given


is it true?

azrael’s hand caresses me
& i
whisper her name in yearning

my scattered fragments
combine in your shade
in an interstellar breeze

everything told now
is the memory of pain
the present is gone
everything is gone
a future
you erased

because we borrowed the stars
we played with in wonder,
decaying mareel
in a false vault of sky
we adorned
the universe’s wallpaper
with the wrong ornaments
put things together
that did not belong
constellations without delay

                                                            a blind widow
                                                                stuck in that cosmic sea
                                                                a horse whose corpse
                                                                    left us stranded
                                                                 in the labyrinth sky

i was an insufficiently superlative
our love was eclectic
beneath plum-colored clouds
& we praised that originality


a neon lit night
you part your lips
your throat is weary,
those starchy white teeth
crushed by new kisses

                                                                                                                  your breath
                                                                                             between every syllable
                                                                                           & every capricious simile
                                                                                                silenced i understood
                                                                                now you’ve found other voices


what i hope now
is that you vanish into the ashes
covered in foul blood plasma
a joke in my happy mouth


i’ve been wanting this a long time,
after my & my friends’ laughter
devoured everything
now i’m cut-glass chandeliers
a cartier
a night in librarytown
cold, expensive champagne
flows from my mouth
in time with the metronome’s clicking



Nirstedt/Litteratur, 2023, 112 pages

Rights: the publisher

We are grateful to Nirstedt/Litteratur and to Aya Kanbar for granting permission to publish this translated extract.

Aya Kanbar made her poetry debut in 2021 with the collection Hyperverklighet, which among others was nominated for Sveriges Radio's Poetry Prize, Borås Tidning's Debutant Prize and The Swedish Writers' Union's Catapult Prize for best debut.

Elizabeth Clark Wessel has translated books by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde, Carolina Setterwall, Kristina Lugn, Linda Segtnan, and many others. A collection of her poetry, None of It Belongs to Me, is forthcoming from Game Over Books in 2024.