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By Abd al-Wahab al-Bayati
(From al-Bayati’s elegies, dedicated to his daughter Nadiya who died in California in 1990)
He who dies in his diaspora Dies a martyr
…She was a poet who did not pen verses but lived more fully than those who created poetry a tool of hollow fame for themselves she died a martyr in the sanctuary of poetry in her diaspora a martyr of vision, of tragedy
Is it just for you to die? Is just for my lighthouses to collapse?
your tomb is in exile and in the homeland your tomb resides in every place where light and shrouds radiate.
What is more hell than this world? Oh God, how often exile crushed our hearts here we exist on the list of the dead in exile in tombs our eyes have turned into stone on the dark side of our planet exiled in the cities of ice (We will reach in Rome…) a slogan swept by the winds over the streets of this world in this age of exile and defection America the exile the third world ‘s regions Europe Oh God all have buried the ghost of our dead while our names were lost in dossiers in the mail How often I beseeched you to let love and faith bring back man and the revolution of the spirit
America: the knife and the wound bier of the bird migrating under its western skies the princess of dreams lies in peace I hear her in the wind’s sighs Oh God She opens her eyes and whispers: Oh Father: Winter howls like a wolf in the wilderness of snow and ashes I feel the cold as I felt it there I see snow on the trees She asks: father, why do we no longer set fires in the mountains? Why do we no longer wear our winter coats?
You were a sunflower and I, the sun, your root curls in my blood your eyes bathe in my light I watch the sun set, the night close in on us like the tribes of birds migrating some are taken captive; others die leaving their young orphans to the wind and the rain you were our garden you bore sacrifices for us in exile and in the homeland for us you were the apple of the eye a guardian angel has the heart betrayed you? and you slept when will the angel return from her heaven?
Translated from the Arabic by Salih J. Altoma This poem appeared in Al Jadid Vol. 5, no. 28 (Summer 1999).