The two poems below — our last for Women in Translation Month — are from Manahel Alsahoui’s collection Thirty Minutes in a Booby-Trapped Bus, translated to English by Sawad Hussain:
Manahel Alsahoui is a Syrian poet and journalist who studied French literature at Damascus University. Thirty Minutes in a Booby-Trapped Bus is her first solo collection of poetry; poems of hers from other anthologies have been translated into German, Turkish, and Japanese. In 2018, she won third place for the Sharjah Prize for Arab Creativity for one of her plays.
Bed of blank bullets
Dozens of soldiers will love me now
They will shove me onto a bed of blank bullets
The dozens know that legs open after a battle
Bodies that haven’t tasted love
And that a woman soaked with the sweat of fighters,
Opens her hand to a hot bullet
Yelling at them to flee
The dozens are kneeling now
Hands behind their backs
The bed is wide…
I calmly stretch out
Dozens of soldiers will love me
Squeezing me so their blood doesn’t flow
And the soil knows that in ruins is a woman…
On the narrow bed, I sprawl out forlorn
I turn my face to the wall
With my finger, I trace your name on the wall
I shut my eyes to the sound of a far-off explosion
I can now sleep without dreaming of anything
Without waiting for something…
I know that so many like you
Went to Europe
Went because of humiliation and death.
But, years on
When your children will ask why you came
You will say:
Because the bodies of European women are warmer,
Warmer than our women who died alone over there.
Sawad Hussain is is an Arabic translator and litterateur who holds a MA in Modern Arabic Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies. Some of her recent translations include Saud Alsanoussi’s Mama Hissa’s Mice and a co-translation of Fatima Sharafeddine and Samar Mahfouz Barraj’s Ghady & Rawan. She is passionate about all things related to Arab culture, history, and literature.