Fawaz Azem has translated three new Syrian poems — one from Dima Yousf and two from Nihad Sayed Issa — all responding, in some way, to the nation’s current landscape:
By Fawaz Azem
Dima Yousf, a Syrian Palestinian born in 1986, graduated from Damascus University with a degree in Arabic literature and a teaching diploma. She teaches Arabic in Damascus schools, and is pursuing a graduate degree “but with a stay of execution.” A recent post on her Facebook page reads “I have so many stories to tell, if I survive.”
Yousf’s poem is untitled.
Oh, if I only had a knife
like those that are forgotten on necks,
If I only had the fingers of a murderer
and his unblinking eyes.
If I could only utter the cry of his victim
the moment he gathers in the voices
from all four corners of the earth,
I would sharpen my knife with my teeth,
and the teeth of all those who, like me,
are unable to do anything, except bite their lips with regret,
and slaughter this year,
peering on us,
I would chop its body into tender meat,
so that the starving would eat.
Oh, if only the years were edible,
so that the starving would chew them,
and spit the bitter taste in our faces.
Oh, if only The Lord would see
the protruding bones of children,
and would do something,
so that we wouldn’t lose faith.
Oh, if only my heart were a god.
Nihad Sayed Issa, born on Sep.1, 1966 in Idlib Syria, graduated from the University of Aleppo with a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and regularly publishes his poetry on his Facebook page, where he has a large following. Three of his cousins were recently killed, fighting the regime forces near Idlib.
According ot the poet:
This poem was written in the aftermath of the Al-Houla massacre. Al-Houla, a village in the province of Homs, was the scene of a massacre perpetrated on May 25, 2012 in which 108 people were killed, including 49 children and 34 women, and 550 people were injured. Following artillery shelling by the regular army, members of a pro-regime militia, together with members of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, stormed the houses, attacking the inhabitants with knives and bayonets.
The Sacrificial Doves
From the darkness of the well, Joseph cries
“O children of Al-Houla, agony of the prophets,”
Jacob calls out, at the top of his voice,
“throw their shirts between my hands.”
Syria’s eyes have turned white with grief.
Job, in his patience, “Lord, a great harm has befallen the people of Syria,
Lord you are the most merciful of the merciful.”
Syria, the Dream Maiden
O maiden emerging from the dream,
……plucking the strings of the unknown,
……..slumbering in the fragrant moments on the pillow of the wind,
………waiting for tomorrow to come.
Fawaz Azem served for 26 yrs in the UN Arabic Language Services, first in the Arabic Translation Service, 1976-1982, and the remaining years in the Arabic Interpretation Section, 1982-2002. Since then, he’s been working as a free-lance Arabic interpreter and translator with the UN and private entities. He is based in New York.