Adnan al-Sayegh

(1955 / Al-Kufa)

I Emerged From The War Inadvertently - Poem by Adnan al-Sayegh

I am emerging from the age of betrayals
Toward noble weeping for a verdant dream
Sown by pigs and vermin
I am entering the orbit of the poem
Half free and half chained.
It is for you to lament me, with you hired mourners
I need do nothing but point
With Na'ilah's severed fingers,
Toward the country's cloak, saluted by gunshots,
And draped upon tribal spears.
The bloody Euphrates will seep
Through your fingers
When you write
'All that the poets write is in vain.'
For this age teaches us
To applaud murderers
When they cross the pavement into our blood,
And this age teaches us
That we must dwarf our statures
…So that the winds may pass easily over us,
That we must follow the herd
Toward the sesonal pasture.

…….But I,
From amidst the wreckage born out of the cannons,
I raise my palm, covered with blood-drenched dust
Before the eyes of the age.
I teach it how we etch our names with fingernails
To ignite the word 'No'.
We who have emerged from the barracks,
We scatter the metropolitan flies from our wounds.
Can we be mistaken - when the huge trucks pass us by -
About the number of martyrs who left in the company of bombs,
About the numbers of friends…
Who passed in battle lines

The wounded poem has not yet healed - but I
Do not mistake the bitter pain
When we come to the terror of mothers
Who, nailed to the pavement at depots,
Ask those going to the war
To take their long maternal nights
As tearful kerchiefs to bind up the distance
Between bullet and supplication.
Mothers who defy years' patience
Before empty beds
In the military hospitals…(spreading the sheets of the departed
On wind-swept ropes to dry them for those who will come
shortly…)
…Where shall we go with our lives - still young
Oh, lord….

I will stifle this scream in my throat
While you take your breakfast of the daily news and tea.
I write about a moon that will come
And a cloud that traversed our wheat
To perch on our wounds.
I stroke your pains
To pass like a line of my poem
Threading my heart through the passageways.
I tailor the cloak of exile to the size of your sorrows
Leaving behind the blood from my cloak of kisses,
As my witness and my evidence
Before the writer of justice.
I have not been defeated
Nor have I fled - like my cousins' horses -
from the battlefield.
Between me and the bullets there is my truthfulness,
And this poem, with its voice hoarse
From too much hurrying through the trenches,
Screams in terror and bewilderment:
- Stop beating these drums!
Who will erase now from the vault of my memory
The images of friends who have passed in the postage of the battle
Without a flower or slumber,
Leaving nothing behind but the address of my heart.
Friends who have lost the path
To their tears and homes,
Friends of the bombs.
I have grown old before my time.
Haven't you seen my lungs, blackened by slogans not tobacco?
Haven't you seen my back, humched beneath the steps of those
heading for trophies?
Oh… what my heart conceals!
Oh… What newspapers and girls reveal (girls who hustle the
lover's pulse to the lift of the elegant apartment) …
Greetings to the country of wheat
Greetings to the country of streams
Greetings to my country which, whenever besieged by bombs
Carries its wound as a banner for struggle
And took arms against the Romans
The only Romans are our own countrymen, who thurst
Their treacherous blades in our backs

On my lips is a withered tree, and the Euphrates, which passed
by, did not quench my thirst; behind me is the barking of the
barren wars launched by the general on our flesh, though we elude
the wars' teeth and shrapnel which combed our childrens hair
before they left for school and roses; I run, I run, through the
forest of death, collecting the kindling of those who departed in
the autumn of battles and left me alone behind them lika a sad
star; lifting up the edge of my robe with my teeth as I run I
dodge my death between bullets and martyrs; I am a poet whose life
has been eaten by words, so how am I to arrange these letters and
launch a sentence without letting my heart slip - in confusion -
from my tongue and exploding a land mine? I run, run, and my heart
goes out to my country - where will it bury its sons? The earth
is smaller than my mother's tears; from my child's skin, I shake
out the bullets and he gathers them in the flour bin; winds pass
over my heart strings and sorrow of the meadows resonates;
butterflies pass over our wounds and then fly to the flowers; oh
trees, whose boughs have taught us to sprout branches of our pain
for the spring which will come so that the jasmine may open its
windows. If only the jasmine and my heart would be reasonable!
She shelters herself in his coat - when the aircraft pass overhead
- she feels … his pulse bursting forth like a garden, touching
the corona which was trembling under his wet shirt: - I love…
you! Sirens interrupt her and the kisses were scattered about on
the grass, plowed by the vermin to the end of the jasmine and my
sorrow; we drape the remains of anger on the hook of war; as night
slopes toward the serene houses in the evening of obscurity and
bitter lillies, birds lean toward the roofs of the warehouses; a
flock of cranes hurries to my soul's spring; tomorrow in a morning
without aircraft, we will run beneath a drizzle of violets, melded
together, wandering among the streets and the bubblings, we'll
stroke the fountains' hair, I'll remember that your hands love to
doze in my hands, and we'll grow; does the field grow from a flower
or from your hands? I'll see what I see of lifes craziness on her
chest, my soul roaming like larks, I'll gather the flowers from her
clothes and the meadows which have been harvested by shrapnel;
honey pours from the lips' error, intoxicating me: was I wrong to
love? The passageway that enclosed us beneath the shade of the
pine trees remembers how my heart crawled unwittingly to your chest
- have I drunk too much? - don't delude me that you are warmer
than the land, this country is only a bomb away from your vein; oh
you bird, exiled between dictionaries, we measure life by the bomb
which passed over our wearisome patience as we shoot down the
unnecessary shrapnel to wear as a shirt of impossible joy; is it
wrong that we love life?


Poet's Notes about The Poem

Translated by Nancy Coffin and Hani Hanafi.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 16, 2013

Poem Edited: Tuesday, September 17, 2013


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