Music in a Baghdad Alley

No matter where you settle
or wander
That first melody is yours
At every arrival and departure
Its living face will meet you
at the entrance that remains
If you walk
and the opposing wind is in your face
and Death alone is the alternative
To hear it
departing between worlds, where you
go and come.
Did you not hear it one night
As you were passing under a balcony?
Your longing still anchors it
in the heart of wandering
A blind musician shaking it off
From the nooks in his lute
In a star-filled night, once upon a country

Yes, I heard it on a star-filled night
As I was passing under a balcony
And today I heard it again
Wherever epochs rise
Wherever a snake sheds its skin
Wherever an evening finds its secret
It comes from the heart
Of the current of histories it comes
To fill my heart with a pure wine I cannot
Smell alone
Its arch shivers in my hand
But its wind bends my gazes
When it comes from my father’s house
Dancing to the beat of my losses
To tell me
To bet the last penny I have
To worship her voice
Imprisoned in every fiber.

If you can guide me
To its secrets if you can
Guide me to the traces of that night
The fingers of that dangerous musician
If you know
anyone who heard something about it
If you wish to sleep with me
In her dirt-filled arms
If you are carrying a sign from it my friend
Even if a lie or a clot
of its oil flowing on this
chosen rib
I would give you all the silver
or gold I own
I would kneel before your hands for a moment
and sever this braided rope of days to walk
backward naked like a child
and live in that night
as if it were my mother. 

My anchor remained
At the bottom of that night
When a star winked at me
And a night breeze drifted over my forehead
And I knew with utmost certitude
That I would never die. . . 

From Sargon Boulus, Hamil al-Fanus Fi Layl al-Dhi’ab (The Lamp Carrier in a Night of Wolves) (Cologne: Dar al-Jamal, 1996). © Sargon Boulus. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2013 by Sinan Antoon.  All rights reserved.