Badr Shakir al-Sayyab
City Of Sinbad - Poem by Badr Shakir al-Sayyab
Hungry in the tomb without food,
Naked in the snow without a cloak,
I cried out in winter:
Bestir, o rain,
The beds of bones and snow and particles of dust,
The beds of stone,
Make the seeds grow, let the flowers open,
And set the sterile threshing,
Make the roots break through,
And burden down the trees.
And you came, o rain,
The sky and the clouds broke forth to anoint you,
And the rocks were split open,
And, flowing over with your gifts,
The euphrates muddy turned
The tombs moved, their dead
were shaken and they arose
And their bones cried out:
Blessed be the god who grants us
Blood in the form of rain
And alas, o rain,
We should like to sleep again,
We should like to die again,
And with our sleep will be buds of awareness,
And our death will conceal life;
we wish the god would take us back
To the heart of his deep, many-layered mystery;
We wish he would head us backward on the road
Wo where it has its far beginning.
Who awakened lazarus from his long sleep?
That he might know the morning and evening,
And summer and winter,
That he might be hungry, or feel
The burning coal of thirst.
And shun death,
And count the heavy, swift minutes
And praise the rabble
And shed blood !
Who revived us?
Did he revive too what er fear?
Who is the god in our dwelling place?
His fire takes life upon our wax candles,
His malice takes life on our tears.
Is this Adonis, this emptiness?
And this pallor, this dryness?
Is this Adonis? Where is the glow?
And where is the harvest?
The sickles are not reaping,
The flowers are not blooming,
The black fields have no water!
I this the expectation of so many years?
Is this the shout of manhood?
Is this the maon of women?
Adonis! Behold the defeat of heroism!
Death indeed has shattered every hope within you,
And you have advanced with a wandering look
and an empty fist:
With a threatening fist
and a sickle that reaps nothing
But bones and blood.
Today? and tomorrow?
When will he be born?
when will he be born?
There is death in the streets,
and barrenness in the fields,
and all that we love is dying.
They have bound up the water in the houses
And brook are panting in the drought.
Behold, the Tatars have advanced,
Their knives are bleeding,
And our sun is blood, our food
is blood upon the platter.
They have burned Muhammad, the orphan,
And the evening glows from his fire,
Thr blood boiled up in his fire,
In his hands and in his eyes,
And in his eyelids the god was burned.
They have bound up Muhammad,
The prophet, on Mt,Hira
And the day was nailed down
Where they nailed him.
Tomorrow, Christ will be crucified
In Iraq, and the dogs will feast
On the blood of Buraq.
Oh spring, what has afflicted you?
You have come without rain
You have come without flowers,
You have come without fruit,
And your end was like your beginning
Wrapped round in gore; Now summer
Is upon us with black clouds
Its days full of cares
And its nights
We spend wakefully, counting the stars;
Until that time when the ears of grain
Will be ripe for harvest
And the sickles will sing
And the threshing floors
Will cover up crevices
Then will it seem to the hungry that Ishtar,
The goddess of flowers, has brought back the captive
To mankind, and crowned his lush forehead with fruit?
Then will it seem to the hungry that the shoulder
Of Christ has rolled back the stone from the tomb
Has set out to resurrect life from the grave
And cure the leper or make the blind to see?
Who us this that let loose the wolves from their bonds?
Who is this that gave us to drink from a mirage,
And concealed the plague in the rain?
Death is being born in houses,
Cain is being born in order to tear out life
From the womb of the earth and from the wellspring of water,
And it will soon be dark.
Women are aborting in slaughterhouses,
And the flame is dancing along the threshing floors,
And Christ will perish before Lazarus.
Let him sleep
Let him, for Christ did not call him!
What do you want? His flesh cut into strips and dried
To be sold in the city of sinners,
The city of rope and blood and wine,
The city of bullets and boulders!
Yesterday they took from its place the copper horseman,
Yesterday they took the stone horseman,
Lethargy reigned in the heavens
And discontent stepped in
And a human horseman pranced through the streets
Dyeing the cradles with blood
Cursing divine decree and fate!
As if walled, ancient babylon
had returned one again!
With its high domes of iron
Where a bell is ringing, as if a cemetery
Were moaning in it, and the heavens
The courtyard of a slaughterhouse.
Its hanging gardens are sown
With heads out off by sharp axes,
And the crows peck at their eyes,
While suns set in the west
Behind their hair dyed in branches.
And is this my city? Are these the ruins
On which was inscribed: ''Long live life''
With the blood of its slain?
I there no god in that place, no water or fields?
Is this my city? Daggers of the Tatars
Sheathed above its gate, and the desert pants
with thirst around its streets, unvisited by the moon?
Is this my city? Are these the pits,
And these the bones?
The shadows look down from their houses
With their blood dyed somber
To be lost and unnoticed
By the pursuer
Is this my city? With injured domes,
In which red-robed Judas
Set the dogs on the cradles
Of my little brothers . . . and the houses,
They eat of their flesh
And the village Ishtar is dying of thirst,
There are no flowers on her forehead
And in her hand there is a basket, its fruit are stones
Which she casts at every women.
And in the palm trees
On the city's shore there is a wailing
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