New in Translation: ‘A Man in His Seventies and a Lady in Her ?’

The poem below, composed in 2016, is from the collection What Was Too Late to Tell, by Iraqi poet, writer, and researcher Hameed Saeed:

A Man in His Seventies and a Lady in Her ?

By Hameed Saeed

Translated by Buthaina Al Nasiri

A man in his seventies and a lady in her ? 

meet

in a hospital in Amman

…….

…….

Do you know me?

……

……

They separate

2

On Faisal Farhan Jarba Street

where he lives

he saw her,

trailed by a cautious mountain dog

he hurried by 

she smiled 

and wondered: Does he truly not remember me? 

3

He was watching her, 

stirring the coals of the nargila:

Is it her? 

Or a woman who looks like her?

……

…… 

When she left the cafe

he remembered the flapping of her cloak

but she had left.

……

……

 We have grown old—and the world has changed

except for the flapping of her cloak—this was as it was

4

At Immigration Services 

he was surprised by the voice of a woman 

coming from a long time past. 

Is it you?

Yes.

And you?

I was telling my grandchildren about you. 

And this is the middle one.

He will visit you some morning, at the café.

5

His neighbor says:

“Yesterday, while they were fixing my hair 

at the beauty salon

I met a woman from Baghdad.

She was a gaunt old woman, applying kohl to her eyes,

color to her cheeks, her lips, her nails

like a young girl.

We chatted

I mentioned your name

she said:

He was.

6

At Fourth Circle,

while paying the bill to the owner of the restaurant 

she passed

he was not far away 

Oh

You’re here?

For years— 

I’ve been living on this street—for years 

She points, with her stick, to a house not far away.

Visit me whenever you wish. 

…..

…..

Weeks later, he comes to ask after her 

The doorman tells him—she has passed away.

7

It is very cold in Amman

And the man in his seventies—is tottering aimlessly 

seeking warmth where his friends are. 

And, at the door,

he recalls the cold days in Baghdad 

when she was with him. Where is she now?

She laughed at how he called her “Pomegranate.”

Is the cold there still—as it was? 

Or did it emigrate

to search for her—everywhere? 

8

A dark shade passes every evening

as the man in his seventies looks out from his balcony

wondering: Who is this mysterious shade?

Then imagined—it was a woman 

and he gave her a name. 

He chose a time for her, and tales.

He used to say: Why doesn’t she ask about me?

Weren’t we once together? 

The dark shade passed one day, just before sunset 

The man in his seventies saw it, and

it was the neighbor’s gardener.

9

She phones him 

and she says: I saw you in the cafe—from a distance.

Was that you?

Yes.

What are you waiting for 

in a man who is in his seventies?

…..

…..

Then he saw her.

What remains of this lady in her ? 

10

Delusion takes him to days past. 

He sees a woman who had been, then was forgotten.

She comes out of a house he imagines

and greets him.

He returns her greeting

and is about to shake her hand

……

……

but he is roused by the voice of the waiter in the café. 

And he is—as he was.

*

Hameed Saeed is an Iraqi writer, poet, researcher who was born in May 1941 in Hilla, Babylon, Iraq. He has published several poetry collections, memoirs, plays, and research and is considered a pioneer in modern Iraqi poetry.

Buthaina Al Nasiri is a fiction and script writer who was born in Baghdad in 1947 and has been living in Egypt since 1979.

mlynxqualey

2 thoughts on “New in Translation: ‘A Man in His Seventies and a Lady in Her ?’

  1. Shukran to Buthaina Al Nasiri for this warm translation. Migration and relentless efforts to break away from the past are emerging as dominant themes in contemporary Iraqi poetry. Iraqi writers, like many in the Arab world, have been keeping up with global cultures in the best possible traditions.

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