Translated by Salih J. Altoma
Just like in the old days, Baghdad has come to embrace me.
Has Baghdad come to this faraway land?
The flowers of love in each greeting hand
bring back cherished memories.
In Baghdad’s alleys, I smell spices,
Fragrance of the Anbar rice simmering
As I walk home from school, hungry at noon.
And you, my loved ones, you are my migrating homeland,
The companions of my journey,
United we are by our love for Iraq,
By our haunting anxieties,
United in a choking sensation.
Yes, we choke, while here the food is plentiful
There, in Baghdad, a child starves,
An old man goes hungry,
And a dispossessed woman is left with nothing to sell.
Our blood has been shed, but has the exalted Arab honor
Yes, we go on choking
For we know by name every one of those who starve,
Those who die for lack of medicine
We know by name every one of those, whose homes have been plundered,
The merchants who were killed in their own shops,
Those who perished senselessly,
Those who became insane
Or were maimed, or missing.
We know them all by name.
Scattered are our souls
Half here, half there,
We reside in two different places,
Only our bodies live far from Iraq’s soil.
Amarah (This and ‘Basrah’ are originally parts of the poem ‘Tears on a Sad Iraqi Face’)
O my memories of Amarah. I hear rockets blasting my memories.
There my life began.
I recall summer times, the sad melodies of the nocturnal flute
Chattering on sleepless roofs.
My love is: Amarah, my grandfather’s house, and
The road to my school.
Walking along the river al-Kahla` was my song.
Now the songs are silenced,
Even the songs were not spared death.
And now, by the order of my enemy, I shall pay for each bomb that fell on my
O Basrah, confluence of the two rivers,
Of the two wars,
O most noble hearted of Iraqi cities,
O hill of ruins, O mass graveyard.
The thorns of all the palm trees
Poke through my heart.
There is nothing more ignoble,
More despicable than this war.
Suspension Bridge [Written in the Iraqi vernacular]
It is not the bridge but my rib that has been smashed.
O most beautiful bridge, a band girding the Tigris
Beneath it water glitters, sunset glows
A bridge binding the two quarters, Karkh and Rusafa, forever intertwined
O joy of the bridal processions crossing the bridge
leaving behind their perfume
Woe to the hand that destroyed it, destroying every inch of history, every
feeling of joy.
Tears on a Sad Iraqi Face
I rested my head on an Iraqi chest and wept
his heart endured the same sorrow as mine
he caressed and calmed me; I slept
as branches of sadness, interlaced between
our souls, moan even in our silence
O wailing heart, O most beautiful eyes
I have ever seen
What has united us?
The cruelty of this war?
Or the passion of love?
O sad face from my homeland.
What tears what love can wash that sad face?
O my family, now only terror fills their hunger,
Fills their thirst. O the panic of resurrection.
Is there any road that does not lead
them to destruction and Hell.
Any shelter for them?
What age do we live in? An age of barbarism?
Or an age of civilization,
Disgraced by its deeds in Amiriyyah.
This is the gloom of a defeated knight,
his hands paralyzed,
his forehead bearing the brunt of destruction,
all the sadness of the burning palm trees
all the wailing songs from the South,
all the echoes of lamentation.
O palm trees of Samawah
How much cruelty can exist in this world?
Seventy thousand children, sweet as dates
— No, even sweeter – have fallen,
Along with your burning leaves, for what sins O palm trees of Samawah?
Like a headstrong mare I was.
I tripped not
Nor was I easy to subdue
Possessing the pride of the palm trees
Of my homeland’s ageless hospitality.
My pride was to starve, rather than to bend, defiant, like the palm tree.
Alas! Led I was one day to forget my pride
When my own guide misled me.
Lo and behold! Now I stretched out my hands asking for charities,
Dispensed by the same hands that destroyed civilization.
Yesterday I had my own name
So did my children and my sister
Suddenly overnight we were all named ‘enemy’
One name for all of us
Like one school uniform
Oh! How painful this ‘enemy’ name is!
All my life I sought equality as a salvation
How has it turned into bitter reality, animosity, and bullets?
And we, all of us, have been indiscriminately called ‘enemy’?
America! I have loved you since my childhood
How often I sailed in my dreams toward you!
Paper was my boat
I sailed across the Atlantic
Anchoring in Manhattan
Telling tales from the ‘Arabian Nights’
Oh! How beautiful children’s dreams!
I sought you, America, a refuge
Like a weary bird singing for love and hopes
Here I am a wounded bird
More weary than ever
Cast out at your door
My love songs withered in fear
And died on your soil.
I have become a suspect
Like the wildest criminals
But I did not bear arms
Nor did I conceal heroin under my skin
Why did they skin me at airports?
From among all other travellers
Why am I alone an ‘enemy’?
I did not starve a child in California
Nor did I, in malice, burn factories
I did not destroy a bridge over the Hudson River
I did not bomb Seattle
I did not garb thousands of widows with black garments
Why am I then called ‘enemy’?
O God! With my heart full of love
How did ‘enemy’ become my name?