Treasure Island

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

(1926-1964)

A Strange Man Nearby The Gulf


The simoom puffs its heat on the midday until late afternoon.
The hot wind blows gustily either lets the sails folded or outspread.
The gulf is overcrowded with toiling seamen.
They rove through the sea to gain their daily bread.
Anyone of them is barefoot and half of his body is naked.
Over the sandy seashore, the strange man sat there.
Extending his sight, he looks to gulf bewildered.
As if the rough gulf scatters the lights, in how much it raises convulsion.
Once I saw the stormy gulf's waves lifting up the foams violently.
As if an explosive effect burst into my soul reminds me my country.
It is as if the tide, as if the heavy clouds, as if tears bathed the eyes.
The wind gusts toward me: Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. It shouts loudly.
The waves wail to me Iraq. Iraq. Iraq.
Never there is country to you except Iraq.
However, the waves are wide; Iraq is far away to reach.
The sea stands as barrier beyond you Iraq.
Yesterday when I visited the café, I heard you Iraq.
I thought it is seemingly that you country is mere rotary disc.
As if the orbits are rolling where I stop even if the time shifts its way.
Two moments of peace remind me even if they shift to another place.
They are the moments of seeing my mother face on darkness.
And her voice envisioned to my eyes when I left to sleepiness.
Moreover, I fear the date palms orchards when become dark at sunset.
I envisage the ghosts crowding there to kidnap each child still playing on the streets.
She is the wretched magician old women crackling by her belt.
Yet I do not know how the grave was opened to deliver a beauty white woman!
Then I choose her to be the only beloved lover.
Do you not remember Zahra? I wish I knew!
Didst we sit very close to the fireplace together one day?
Didst we sit with the crowded people surround fireplace or nearby?
While my aunt related to us the stories about bygone kings.
The door is closed firmly against women to talk but for she not.
Since she is the supporter for men, they obey her.
While the men still chat revelry without boring on that chatting night.
Didst you remember? Didst you forget?
Didst you remember when we were very satisfied on our life?
We were exciting to hear the story because it was relating by a woman.
The story discussed many frightened animals at different time.
Didst we have vigorous temper to be one of the past time symbols?
Didst you guess we are the indivisible part of that inheritage past?
Is it all that is in vain?
The only things remain is dream and rotary disk.
Is the remnant things are the only thing is as remembrance?
Where is the consolation? To my soul, to my satisfaction I might think!
Your love makes me love Iraq further more.
Both of you are the same, the candle that enlightens my way.
I remember you both when the evening comes down and overlap.
The night covers the place, if only you can light the darkness.
Lest I do not straying on this deepness.
If you come to meet me on the strange country, what I have to say?
The preferred meeting to me is on my country ground I love.
The homesick of my country calls forth on me to travel at once.
My yearning to my country evokes on my blood, my hunger, yet my emotions.
I desire to my country as if the drowned insisting the air.
I desire to my country as if the fetus is yearning to see the light.
I am wonderful, how someone can betray his country.
Is it really that someone can betray his country!
If he betrays, how can he touch its soil, its air, or how can he drinks its water?
The sun on my country even the dark is the most beautiful everywhere.
I feel the darkness when it covers my country is the safety place.
Iraq would sleep on peace.
Alas! What a pity! How and when can I sleep?
Then I can feel on my pillow the odor of summery nights of Iraq.
How many times had I sung joyfully between your welcoming villages of the western cities?
I carry your dream as if the Christian who is expelled bearing his cross.
I heard the voices of the footfall of hungry men were bleeding because of stumbling.
It will bestrew on my eyes the Iraqi dust that spurs my emotion.
Yet still I am walking barefoot above the strange ground under the merciless sun of foreign countries.
Wearing ragged clothes, I stretched my dewy hands to people.
Disdainful, scornful, between the careless eyes I roam their streets.
The death is hundred times better to me than saying: Oh, Poor man!
Indeed, it is better than hardly unwillingly charitable kind eyes.
I disdain the worthless pennies the put on my hand even my soul.
If only! You blood cease and cannot flow on my veins.
If only! You money vanish and become mere futile things.
If only! You metallic drops fly and evaporate in sky.
Oh, needle! When do you finish the sewing of sails?
Oh, wind! When are you able to carry away the sail?
Then I can return to Iraq. If only! I can return to Iraq.
Is it now? I wish I knew! It is now.
Oh! The shining waves were shaken by the silent oar.
If only I had money! Now I shall be in the middle of gulf, under its big shining stars going home.
If only! The ships do not bargain the travelers.
If only! The earth is extended and does not border with seas.
Still in vain! I count my money, wishing if it is more.
Still I am scornful because of money suffering the emigration pains.
Yet I am on yearning soul felt thy brightness on my door and window.
Oh! Money, can you tell me on the other bank what your secret is!
Can you tell me when I return home? If only! You can tell me.
Is it the happy day draws near before I die?
I shall awake on that promising morning while the sky is cloudy.
When I see a bit of chilly breeze is saturated with the perfume of autumn.
And I could remove by the yawing the rest of my drowsiness.
The tiredness, which is similar to transparent veil, stands against my eye.
As if the silk cover reveals the visible and the invisible underneath.
The veil if I remove, will disclose what is forgotten and what is doubtful.
Then I can find the new attire I have searched on my dim soul for along.
For along time I have not seen the joy, and consider it as if dense fog.
Today the joy fills my heart suddenly. Do I surely return?
Alas! I have not enough money to return home.
Does someone who has insufficient money can travel or return home?
How does the money can be saved? I do not know! Yet I do not know!
How can the poor man save the money if he cannot find something to eat?
How can the poor man save the money if he lives on the charities?
You eyes, you must shed tears bitterly upon Iraq.
Oh! Soul you should cry bitterly upon Iraq.
You have not only the tears to donate.
You have not choice but only the waiting.
In vain, you wait the mercy of wind and the sails to set up.

Translated by Mohammad Mahmud Ahmad

Submitted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Edited: Friday, September 13, 2013

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