Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Informer by Iraqi poet Badr Shakir As-Sayyab (my translation):
"I am what you want: I am contemptible
The shoe shiner for the conquerors,
and the vendor of blood and conscience
for tyrants. I am a crow
feeding off the corpses of
chicken. I am destruction,
I am ruination!
The lip of the harlot
is more chaste than my heart,
and the wings of flies
are purer and warmer
than my hands. As you wish...
I am contemptible!
But my eyeballs have--if they
followed your steps and recognized
your features and trembling--two
that will weave your trap
and the edges of the blood-soaked
coffin, and two coals
terrifying your sight, if not burn you!
...and you say: He can't see me anymore"...
but my blood sees you
I feel you in the air and in the eyes
of the readers.
Why do they read: because Tunisia
wakes up to struggle!
and because the Algerian rebels weave
with sand
and from storms, and floods
and from the gasps of the hungry
coffins for tyrants?...
I am what you wish:
I am the mean, the stupid,
the vindictive
But I am what I want:
I am the strong, the able.
I am the carrier of chains in me,
tying up whomever I wish
with chains of steel,
violating of cheeks and foreheads
the best.
I am the fate, the justice....
Damn this entire universe,
and let destruction befalls me!
Why should I care about people!
I am not a father for the hungry...
Let them exact on me what they want
of contempt and insults
I have a fistful of wheat
and the coming years
--five or more...or less--
it is the spring of life
Let them dream of the
imagined future
inciting in people the spirit
of growth,
and of threshing floors and
the victory of toilers
Let them dream, if dreams
can feed the hungry.
I will survive, with no hope
and no nostalgia, and no longing,
nothing except fright and anxiety
over the destiny
Wretched destiny!
O God, death is easier
than its bitter expectation
Wretched destiny:
Why am I most contemptible
of all contemptible people?!"

(Thanks to dear Sinan for reminding me of this poem last month. On this gifted poet, there are many books. See the ones by Hawi and by Ihsan `Abbas (my favorite). He led a very miserable life of poverty, illness, and misery. You read about his life and then realize that his love poems were written for prostitutes he had known in Beirut. The most sad line of love poetry I ever read is by him in his poem Love Me (which is sung to great music by the very talented Paris-based Syrian musician`Abid Azriyyah in the collection Aromates), it says: "All the ones I loved before you, never loved me.")
وما من عادتي نكرانُ ماضيَّ الذي كانا
ولكن.. كلُّ من أحببت قبلك ما أحبوني
ولا عطفوا عليَّ؛ عشقتُ سبعاً كنَّ أحيانا
ترف شعورهنَّ عليَّ، تحملني إلى الصينِ..