‘Voices from the Syrian Tragedy’: Three New Poems

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, courtesy of the author.
Dima Yousf, courtesy of the poet.

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.

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Oh, if I only had a knife
like those that are forgotten on necks,
after massacres.
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,
mockingly.
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,
anything,
so that we wouldn’t lose faith.
Oh, if only my heart were a god.

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Photo courtesy the poet.
Photo courtesy the poet.

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.”

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Syria, the Dream Maiden

Syria,
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.

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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.

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48 comments

    • are you serious? You seem surprised.. This is no place to question the torture trials of the Syrian people from your comfy chair.

      Never have i felt such sadness for a people more than Palestine, until Syria. Heartbreaking. Your poetry is beautiful. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The first poem is heartbreaking. All Syrian refugees are having a tough time, but women seem to face the brunt of the violence. Many studies have come out recently siting the increase in violence against women and the decrease in reproductive and mental health. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Thank you for sharing. It jolted me back to the reality of how much I have to be thankful for. I feel we are so bombarded by news and images that it all comes passing by so quickly and lacks meaning. These words, especially the first poem by Dima Yousf have true identifiable meaning that people can relate to. I hope this can be resolved peacefully and we can stop the senseless violence.

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  3. Dima Yousf’s poem wow! Very complex, gentle… smh: Such a human struggle enunciated with so much care and knowing. I don’t know what I could do, but circulate and teach this poem!

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  4. Beautiful poems, especially the first. My heart goes out to Syrian people, and I commend them for their bravery and the beautiful words they use to express themselves. They are inspirational for all of us, standing for their beliefs against all odds…thank you.

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  5. thank you for translating it for the English readers. I wish the USA would find interest in Syria as they have now in the Ukraine .. Insha Allah Syria will rebound.

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  6. Thank you for making these voices available to those of us in the west. We can’t respond to what we can’t hear. We need to hear more

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  7. Very powerful and heart wrenching I pray that these words and your thoughts shed tremendous light in all the dark.

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