Two Poems - Saadi Youssef

Thenation press servecis
2009-02-13 | Since 11 Year



Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa


That was not a country.
But it had all it needed
to imprint its image on us,
we the children of impossible clay.
That was not a country.
But it could erase the scrolls of our destiny.
Look how it rises in us again,
and splits our blood like lightning!
We had forgotten it
and said we'll never see its papyrus,
not even in dreams.
We had forgotten it
the way soldiers forget first kisses,
the way a bed forgets the floor,
the way a wave forgets bottom moss.
We had forgotten it
and said we'll never see it again.
Who let it in through the window?
Who slipped it under the door?
Who brought it to us unaware
to abduct us
with its bloody hands
and to toss us
on top of a heap of meat
for vultures?

Paris, 5/5/1991


A Vision

This Iraq will reach the ends of the graveyard.
It will bury its sons in open country
generation after generation,
and it will forgive its despot . . . .
It will not be the Iraq that once held the name.
And the larks will not sing.
So walk - if you wish - a long time.
And call - if you wish -
on all the world's angels
and all its demons.
Call on the bulls of Assyria.
Call on a westward phoenix . . . .
Call them
and through the haze of phantoms
watch for miracles to emerge
from clouds of incense.

Amman, 8/13/1997


 The girl who works in the warehouse
 leaves her second-floor room.
 She switches on the staircase light,
 her face agitated in the glow,
 and hesitates a little
 before the street subsumes her world.
 Inevitably, she will go to the café this morning,
 cradling her first cup in her coat.
 It's cold on the street now
 and this café she loves is warming up.
 How she dreams of staying longer!
 To sit at a corner table
 and read
 or listen to music.
 And who knows,
 maybe all of a sudden
 love will come!

The Mediterranean Café

Translated by : Tareq Al-kermi

It is not far than a night oblivious look
From the opening of  “ Umm Khaled “ meadow.
You see it, at night, drenched in its blood.
Beit Leed Cabaret was your hidden bar of sand and turtle shield,
How your pulse turned into mother of pearl
and water crabs?
Will your soul leave tonight?
to its pomegranates?
to beaches that resemble the beaches women shoulders?
You will keep departing to the depths
by fineries of sea birds.
(Your followers are the stripped mullets)
 In the depths
You are disappearing
Your soul is a sponge.
As if your soul is a sponge …

August / the coast meadow

Saadi Youssef
was born in 1934 in Basra, Iraq. He has published thirty volumes of poetry, seven books of prose, and has rendered into Arabic major works by such writers as Walt Whitman, Constantine Cavafy, Federico  Lorca, George Orwell, Nuruddin Farah, and Wole Soyinka. He left Iraq in 1979, and after many detours, working as a journalist, publisher, and political activist, he has recently settled in London.

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