Treasure Island

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

(1926-1964)

Return To Jaykur


I roamed the hills
on the grey horse of a dream
fled the outstretched vistas,
fled the marketplace teeming with vendors,
fled the weary morning,
the barking night, the quiet passers-by,
the gloomy light,
fled the wine-drenched landlord,
fled the shame decked in flowers
and death in its leisurely stroll
along the river's drowsy currents.
If only its waters would wake up,
if only the Virgin would come to drink,
if only the blood-drenched setting sun
would immerse herself within these banks,
or else just rise.
And if only the branches of night
would burst into leaf,
if the brothel would close its door to its customers.

Under the sun of the green east -
on the grey horse of a dream,
through Jaykur's bounteous summer
I rushed along distant roads,
between flowers, dew and water,
searching the horizon for a star,
a birthplace of the soul beneath the skies
for a spring to slake the flames of thirst,
searching for the exhausted traveller.

Jaykur, Jaykur - where is the bread?
Where is the water?
Has night taken over? Are the guards asleep?
Travellers, sleepless with thirst and hunger -
the wind moans on,
fills the horizon with its echoes.
A desert, vast, nowhere a road to be found.
Night's skies are blind.
Jaykur, stretch the door open for us to enter
or entertain us with the luminous dance of stars.

Who will hear my poems
when death's silence dwells inside my home,
when night settles in my fire?
Who will lift the burden of my cross
in this long night of dread?
Who would cry out, who would answer to the hungry,
care for the destitute?
Who would lower Jesus from His cross,
who would drive the vultures from His wounds,
remove the lid of darkness from His dawn?
Who would replace His thorns with a crown of laurels?
Jaykur, if you would only hear -
if you would only just be there -
if you would only give birth to a soul,
even an aborted, stunted soul,
as travellers could behold a star
to illuminate the night.
For those without a path

Death struggle
no death.
Speech
no sound.
Labour
no birth.
In Baghdad who crucified the poet?
Who auctions off his poems?
Who invests in his eyes?
Who garlands him with thorns?
Jaykur, Jaykur, the threads of light
have tethered the swing of dawn.
Let the birds,
let the ants feast
on my wound.

This is my cave of Hira.
The spider has worked its web
all the way to its mouth,
leading the people to me.
I die.
While light, enmeshed in its own jungle,
sows the dinars of avaricious Time
from a balcony in the thick of palm branches.
Jaykur, Jaykur - water and vinegar
flow from my heart,
from my festering wound,
from deep inside,
oh my people, oh my people -
Jaykur, Jaykur, are you listening?
Let your doors fling open to the conquerors.
This very evening
round up your children
playing in the village square.
Here is the harvest of the years.
Water is wine.
The jars are full of nourishment.
This is the green season of sickness.

Jaykur, your past has come back.
This is the crowing of the roosters.
The film of sleeplessness has dissolved.
I have come back from my great night journey:
the sun
mother of green wheat stalks.
Behind the buildings
is a loaf of bread
still forgotten on the sidewalk,
but dearer than jewels.
And love:
"Do you hear this thunderous applause?
And what of it?
Abd al-Latif knows that we . . .
What are you so apprehensive about?"
And my soul was abducted
and the train screamed.
Tears ebbed in my eyes,
a cloud holding me up.
The train began to move.
O sun of my days,
is there a return?
Jaykur, sleep in the darkness of my years.

Translated by: Adnan Haydar and Michael Beard

Submitted: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Edited: Monday, September 23, 2013

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