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 ?
in a hospital in Amman
Do you know me?
On Faisal Farhan Jarba Street
where he lives
he saw her,
trailed by a cautious mountain dog
he hurried by
and wondered: Does he truly not remember me?
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
At Immigration Services
he was surprised by the voice of a woman
coming from a long time past.
Is it you?
I was telling my grandchildren about you.
And this is the middle one.
He will visit you some morning, at the café.
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.
I mentioned your name
At Fourth Circle,
while paying the bill to the owner of the restaurant
he was not far away
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.
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?
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.
She phones him
and she says: I saw you in the cafe—from a distance.
Was that you?
What are you waiting for
in a man who is in his seventies?
Then he saw her.
What remains of this lady in her ?
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.
Thank you very much for publishing the translation of this poem
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.
Comments are closed.