The Compulsory Reasons

Mohammed al-Maghout

Whenever freedom rains anywhere in the world,
Arab regimes rush to cover people with umbrellas,
fearing that they will “catch cold.”

Why do Arabs apparently cling to anything and everything?
Are they about to drown?

With everything around us cracking and collapsing,
Where lie the ruins?
Did they sell them already?

All face collapse;
all want to shore each other up.

Whenever two Arabs meet,
intelligence services make a third.

With your hands trembling,
you cannot hit any target.

A Damascene Lover in the Time of War

Gebran Saad

The bullet that made a hole in the
windowsill of 
your family’s home
carried my red kiss 
to you;
the earth has grown smaller,
and the wagons are transporting the violets far away.
The presser, 
who smoothed out the wrinkles
in your shirt, 
and in my skirt,
with the embers of his iron
was killed yesterday
by a stray shell 
on the sidewalk.
Even the taxi driver,
who used to drive us every Thursday
To the Arch of Tenderness
in the “Bab Touma” neighborhood,
has emigrated, 
and took with him
the loud songs 
in his cassette recorder, 
and the blue-eye stickers
on his windshield
to ward off the evil eye.
Come, then, 
and give me a date
between two explosions,
or two bullets;
heed not my hijab,
bearded Christian,
just think of my lips
and of the golden halo
above the head of Damascus.
Two Syrian strangers are we 
in this world,
without a Christ,
save for kisses...

The Rose and My Friend, Somehow

Farag Bayrakdar

Exactly a short while ago
nine elegant bullets ago
In some revolver
or in the head.
Since a city embroidered with slogans
by day,
and sentenced to death
by night.
Since open borders
Known only to smugglers and shepherds,
until heavily guarded squares.
Since I don’t know
how many prisons and cells,
not in Santiago
nor in Baghdad.
Since the first citizen
crushed by the boots of an entire brigade.
Since God,
so beloved by the poor,
whose neutrality they hate in times of need.

On Mother’s Day

Farag Bayrakdar
On Mother’s Day,
Your mothers were taken hostage instead of you.
On Unemployment Day,
God set up a huge tent for the wake, 
and the masses cheered the beloved tyrant.
On Independence Day,
our fathers shed tears of sorrow for France.
And on each Day,
on Oppression Day, on Despair Day, on Hunger Day, 
the rose you’ve been seeking, my friend, falls,
and this rose, which we’ll throw into the river,
when we fail to find your grave,
is not the Rose of Freedom.

My Sunrise

Hanna Saadah
The moon’s long fingers gently tap my door
Before the sun intrudes upon the sky
The yellow morning yawns, the calm clouds snore
I wrap myself with silence and I cry.
The moon’s long fingers gently tap my door
Before the sun intrudes upon the sky
The yellow morning yawns, the calm clouds snore
I wrap myself with silence and I cry.
The sun awakens to my timid tears
Alerts the atmosphere, the birds, the trees
Her warming hands unravel all my fears
Her smile, vast, cosmic, puts my soul at ease.
Then heaven’s windows close to hold the night
Who gently rocks my tired eyes to rest 
Again, I see your moonlit face ignite

When Morning Died

(A Tribute to Sabah, 1927-2014)
Hanna Saadah

*Sabah is a Lebanese iconic singer and actress who died on November 2014

When Morning rose to wake the Arab eyes
From long colonial sleep, tears turned to smiles
And country song-and-dance redeemed the skies
And dabki arms, entwined, stretched out for miles.

When with blithe voice, Sabah, our Morning, sang
The crescents flickered and the church bells rang
And music fluttered far with wings of light
Stretching the festive eves into the night.

When Morning died, the sunrise wore a shroud
And tears washed off the smiles in every crowd
And country music scurried home to mourn


Unsi al-Hajj

Clouds, O clouds
O sighs of dreamers behind windows
Clouds, O clouds
Teach me the joy of evanescence!


The Refugee

Hanna Saadah

I leave with barren arms that used to bear
The fruits of life with young, unmindful air
I flee with years upon my heals and drought
Within my eyes; where do I go, oh where?

Of life I am a restless wandering breath
Romantic, final, intimate like death
Why do I shed my leaves in spring and waste
My ancient wine upon this heedless earth?

Cities are mourning, robed in smoky skies
I hear them coughing bombs and bloody cries
From heaps of pregnant rubble, quickening
With mothers’ arms and little children’s eyes.


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