Ibrahim El-Salahi The Third Birth from Prison Notebook 1976

  • Not on view


The curtains are drawn.

Thus, as the saying goes, the tragedy has begun to unfold.

Thus, you retire, and thus,

Thus, we say, we say thus, we say and say and thus . . .

In the smoke blanket of the past, the universe is engulfed.

With the tongue of the burning silence,

I knock on the door of doors.

Let the mute speak up. Let the mute speak up,

And the curtains are drawn.

Then the day of the beginning comes

When time’s spine bent,

The earth’s surface hunched,

The plains and ravines lost their bloom,

The glass was emptied.

The river course sank under the mirage rivers,

And dust clouds invaded all eyes.

The day when “ashes to ashes” returned, that was the beginning.

Ibrahim El-Salahi: This is called “The Third Birth.” It is about what happened after I was released from jail. It is a poem, and these are very complicated words, because I’m trying to talk about how things start and how things end and what happens in between. The process of change and movement and suffering, whatever happens to us in our world, goes on for some time but has to have an end. Every beginning has to have an end.

Publication excerpt from Ibrahim El-Salahi. Prison Notebook, 1976. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018.
Ink on paper from a notebook with thirty-eight ink on paper drawings
11 1/4 × 6 5/8" (28.6 × 16.8 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Catie and Donald Marron, Alice and Tom Tisch (in honor of Christophe Cherix), Marnie Pillsbury and Committee on Drawings and Prints Fund
Object number
© 2021 Ibrahim El-Salahi / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London
Associated work
Prison Notebook
Drawings and Prints

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].