Lock-in Literature: 4 Poems by Jan Dost

This lock-in Monday, as part of our ongoing series of stay-at-home literature (for those who are still at home, and those who aren’t), five poems by Syrian Kurdish writer Jan Dost, translated by his daughter, Mey Dost:


My Mother’s Clock

By Jan Dost

Translated by Mey Dost

Patiently it measured time for thirty years.

It witnessed the noise of grandchildren in my mother’s room,

my father’s fights

and his shy flirtations when he was cheerful.

It witnessed the sewing machine’s roar,

the crackling of fire in the iron chimney

and my mother’s melodies when she recited the Qur’an

or when she sang.

When my mother passed away one April morning,

the clock witnessed her ailing death rattle,

the dark room’s silence

and my bitter weeping.

And when the war broke out,

the bombing knocked my mother’s clock to the ground.

It announced the catastrophe and then remained silent





By Jan Dost

Translated by Mey Dost

I am the lonely seagull that you see over there on the rock,

looking sadly at a miserable wave.

I am the star up there that lurks shy and restless in the sky,

silently chewing on his pale light.

I am the yellow leaf that fell from the top of the maple tree

onto the sidewalk a while ago

and disappeared into the pile of the similarly yellow leaves.

But what you see now is someone

in a forgotten corner of a bar,

silent as a statue’s shadow,

sad as a lonely poplar at the shore of a parched river

somebody who drinks wine,

who bends down,

who cannot write on white paper,

who is the poet whose eyes once were filled with poems.

Yet now his heart has amassed ruins,

verses without rhyme in a hard, merciless poem.



Normalcy in Every War

By Jan Dost

Translated by Mey Dost

At the beginning of the war

we counted the casualties daily

then we counted them hourly

and when the battles became more brutal

we counted the massacres.

And when the fighters went insane

and the war set up its bloody tent over the whole country

we started counting the destroyed cities.

Eventually nobody died anymore

there were no massacres anymore

and no cities that could have been bombed.

The war was not over,

but those who used to count the casualties

had all died in the same war.


A Boat

By Jan Dost

Translated by Mey Dost

When the refugee got on that boat at dawn,

he stared at the firmament

that had begun to pour out stars

and cried to God:

If you really want to murder me in this sea,

don’t let my grave be in a whale’s stomach

or on an angry wave’s back.

At least bring my body back to my family

my family that is burning

to receive a short message from me

in which I tell them: I have arrived.

Yes, oh Lord,

Bring them back my wet body

so they know that the sea did not swallow me

and that I came peacefully out of its waves.


Jan Dost is a Syrian Kurdish novelist, poet and translator who lives in Germany. Dost was born in Kobani in 1965. He writes poetry, short stories and novels in Arabic and Kurdish, and won many awards, including the Kurdish Short Story Award in 1993 and the Kurdish Poetry Award in 2012. Among his best-known translations is The Epic of Mem and Zin written by the acclaimed Kurdish poet Ahmad Khani.

Other translations in our stay-at-home series:

Issa Hassan Al-Yasiri’s ‘A Primitive Prayer for Uruk,’ translated by Ghareeb Iskander, with thanks to Hassan Abdulrazzak

Zakaria Tamer’s ‘The Flower,’ tr. Marilyn Hacker

Lock-in Limited Release: Naguib Mahfouz’s ‘The Man in the Picture’, tr. Karim Zidan

Ali el-Makk’s ‘Forty-One Minarets’, tr. Adil Babikir

‘Eyes Shut’ by Rami Tawil, tr. Nashwa Gowanlock

Bushra Fadil’s ‘Phosphorus at the Bottom of a Well.’ tr. Mustafa Adam

Belal Fadl’s 2007 satireInto the Tunnel,” tr. Nariman Youssef

‘A Street in the Pandemic’ & Other Poems by Jawdat Fakhreddine, tr. Huda Fakhreddine


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