A Stranger by the Gulf (1953)

The wind gasps with the midday heat, 

     like a nightmare in the late afternoon 

And on the masts, it continues to fold, to spread for departure

The gulf is crowded with them--laborers roaming the seas

Barefoot, half-naked

And on the sand, by the gulf

A stranger sat--a baffled vision wanders the gulf

Destroying the pillars of light with the rising wail

Higher than the torrents roaring foam, than the clamor

A voice thunders in the abyss of my bereaved soul:  Iraq

Like the crest rising, like a cloud, like tears to the eyes

The wind cries to me:  Iraq. 

The wave howls at me:  Iraq.  Iraq.  Nothing but Iraq.

The sea is as wide as can be, and you are as distant

The sea is between you and me: Oh Iraq.






Yesterday, as I passed by the café, I heard you Iraq . . . 

You were a spin of a record

This, the spin of the cosmos in my life--it rolls time on for me

In two moments of tranquility if it has lost its place

It is the face of my mother in darkness

And her voice, 

     They glide with the vision until I sleep

And it is the palm trees that I fear if they grow dim at sunset

Crammed with ghosts snatching every child 

     who doesn't return from the paths,  

And it is the old woman and what she whispers about Hazam






And how the grave split open over him before the beautiful, young Afra

And he took hold of her . . . except for a braid






Rose red . . . do you remember?

The glowing fireplace crowded with palms seeking warmth?

And my aunt's whispered tales of bygone kings?

And behind a door like a decree

That was closed on the women 

By hands forever obeyed--as they were the hands of men

The men would carouse and pass the night in revelry

     without tiring    






So, do you remember?  Do you remember?

Content, we were resigned 

With those sad stories--as they were the stories of women.

A collection of lives and times, we were in its prime

We were its two spheres--between which it rested

So, isn't that nothing but dust?

A dream and a spin of the record?

If that were all that remains, where is the consolation?






In you Iraq,  I loved my spirit or I loved you in it

Both of You, the lantern of my spirit, you--

     and evening came

And the night pressed down--so let both glow in the darkness, 

     so I will not lose my way

If you came to me in a foreign land--the encounter would be 

     incomplete

Meeting you--Iraq at my hand . . . this,  the encounter

Longing for it penetrates my blood, as if all of my blood is desire

A hunger for it . . . like the hunger of the blood of the drowned for 

     air

The desire of the unborn stretching his neck from the 

     darkness to birth

I wonder how it is possible for traitors to betray 

Does one betray his country?

If he betrays the meaning of being, how can he be?






The sun is more beautiful in my country than any other, and     

     darkness

Even darkness--there, is more beautiful

     for it embraces Iraq







What a pity . . . .when will I sleep

And sense on the pillow

Your summer night--gilded by your perfume, Iraq?

Between timid villages and strange cities, my footsteps

I sang your beloved soil

And I carried it--for I am the Messiah in exile dragging his cross 

And I heard the footfall of the famished moving, bleeding 

     from faltering

And dust, from you and from padded feet--my eyes filled with

     tears

I still walk, disheveled--with soiled feet on the roads

Under foreign suns

In tattered  rags, hands outstretched, calling 

Pale from fever and disgrace, the disgrace of a strange

     beggar

Amidst foreign eyes

Amidst scorn, and rejection, and aversion . . . or pity

Death is easier than pity

Than the pity foreign eyes squeeze out as 

Drops of mineral water

So be doused, you, Oh drops, Oh blood, . . . oh . . . currency 

Oh Wind, Oh needles tailoring the sail for me, 

     when will I return

To Iraq, when will I return?

Oh Flash of the waves staggered by oars--- 

     carrying me to the Gulf

Oh great constellation . . . oh currency.

If only the ships didn't charge their passengers for traveling?

If only the earth like the vast horizon was without seas

I am still calculating, oh currency, I count you--I ask for  more






I am still repelled by you from the intervals of my alienation, 

I still ignite my window and my door with your glow,

On the other shore over there,  

     So tell me, oh currency . . .

When will I return, when will I return.

Do you see that joyous day approaching before my death?






And in the sky, in the fragments of clouds

And in the breezes, hailstones saturated with August perfumes

I reveal with a cloak, the remainder of my lethargy, like a silk veil

Disclosing what is and is not visible,

What I have and barely have forgotten, 

     when doubt is within certainty

It is clear to me--as I extend my hand to slip on my clothes--

What answer was I searching for in the darkness of my soul

That the hidden joy did not fill the abyss of my spirit like fog?

Today--as delight floods through me--surprising me--I return






What a pity--

     I will not return to Iraq

And will he who lacks currency return?

And how is it saved?

And will you eat when you are hungry?  And will you spend 

     what 

Dignity deems generous, on food?






So cry for Iraq

For what do you have but tears

But your futile anticipation, for the winds and the masts.