Reading Arabic Poetry the Day Iraq Fell

For I am a stranger
Beloved Iraq
Far distant, and I here in my longing
For it, for her... I cry out: Iraq

And for all the orange groves
And all the olive groves
And the beds of rice topped with chicken
And the beds of pearls in the sea belly
And in the oyster belly the pearl
But in the belly of the earth: Oil

A new Mongol has come
And we have to stoke our tandoors
        with our children's bones
And we have blood on our plates
Blood in our beds
But, our invaders have our blood on their hands

For I am a stranger, Iraq
I'm not of your blood
And the lady of Hyderabad
in her starched white cotton sari
        Adorned with Kalamkari
Speaking pure Dakhini
guarding her precious Arabic books from theft
Under the shadow of the mosque dome copied from Tunis
This is the pearl that came to us from Tunis
But it was just an old mosque now

I read all the poets of Baghdad
And even the passport thieves fell silent
Because poetry is a passport in itself
And it is also a transport
I wept pure tears
Crystalline like pearls
Which cleansed all infections
Then why does the Mongol only understand blood
        Oil and blood
        Blood and oil

The sea beds of Bahrain are polluted by oil
There are no pearls of the purest water now
The purest water now is all our tears
The eye sockets of desert martyrs do not turn pearls
        They remain hollow
Mosque minarets are now factory chimneys
And I smelt burning human flesh
Adonis    Adonis will not rise from the Euphrates
        this spring
Water is pure cyanide
And people prefer to drink salt water
        Refine it and drink it
        Like their own tears
Men have died before machines
        raining death from the air
For a lost notion of knighthood
        It is indeed now night    We're all benighted
When will they crucify the returning Christ, Iraq?!
When will they bathe in the blood of a new Buraq?


I am Tammuz
I drown to give new birth to the dry land
Euphrates will flow again
The Tigris will green the land again
Rain    Rain     It will rain
And I remember the rain in Arab lands
It rains so seldom there
I was in bed with my lover
And grapefruit big as lanterns at his door
I touched the dying fruit of his life
        big as fruit of the vine
Rain    Rain    He rained upon me
The rain of love from his eyes
The waters of life ran free from Tammuz's body
But fire rained from neighbour's eyes
I will never forget that garden
        guzzling water
        dripping water
A dry memory I green here with my tears
But I was only a stranger
        and was turned away from that door....


The poet Badr Shakir Sayyab washes dishes in Kuwait
And looking over the dry desert writes his Poem in Rain
Elitists and feminists listened to wah-wahs at mushairas
But Sayyab and I washed dishes going house to house
The Socialists wouldn't let him teach because he was a Communist
        And the Monarchists before them wouldn't since he was a Socialist
So he lived with the Blind Prostitute of Baghdad
And loved her so deeply he took her syphillis into his bones
And when he could make love no more / He wrote the Poem in Rain....
My house was flooded yesterday
        with the rain of the desert
        that bloomed the desert
I radioed everywhere: Go find Sayyab!
Meanwhile I did my dishes with the water
        of his rain poem
And I even drank some to quench my thirst
But Sayyab could nowhere be found
Then I suddenly found him on this wet page of my poem.

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