“Turn their guns into brooms lest they kill or be killed”:

By Ahmed Abdul Hussein

Translated Khalida H. Tisgam

You, well of thirst,

Black treasure in the wolf’s mouth,

Let your lamp, that speaks miracles, light the name of Iraq. 

Lift the tatters with which you blindfolded Baghdad, 

Collect the ornaments of war from the doorways, 

Turn their guns into brooms lest they kill or be killed, 

Blow out your lantern, which spreads darkness in my mother’s night, 

And don’t let my lover go out, afraid, 

Traveling from home to university and from university back home. Seal up her heart with your farthest star 

So she knows—while she tightens her veil for you—

That You are the tempest 

That finally smiled after long devastation.

You terrorized my little one’s heart 

And it’s time for her to touch Your heart.

As for Your angels, wandering from Zakho to Fao, 

The masked angels with claws and fangs, 

Return them with their explosive belts to the desert 

Grant them a well of thirst 

That they shall draw from forever.

And if our women came to You with their baskets 

Filled with the fruits of their wombs, 

Don’t fill them with your ration card of

Thorns and the bread of humiliation

But 

With a little of what lies in Your hidden treasury’s invisible transcendence. 

Fill them with the flavor of dawn, 

With the flutter of white birds flapping their wings 

At isha prayer.

Darken their eyes with kohl 

And fill their hearts with children’s laughter

Lest they be distracted from praying to You by the names of their children, 

Those who died and those who fled.

Well of thirst!

Lead the hoopoe

The hoopoe of our Mi’dan fathers, to the fountain of secret air 

Because the feet of their souls were broken in grief.

 Turn the mountains of the Kurds to gold 

And make their waterfalls silver 

Because since 1988 they have not completed the recitation of Your Quran, 

Oh God

Whenever they reach Surat al-Anfal

They died.

 And after

 You ordered us to sow the bones of our children 

And wait for the harvest! 

We waited 

But the harvest didn’t come, 

Only Arabs came with beards and an Arabic book 

full of the diseases of animals.

Here You see the Assyrian 

Weeping over the ruins of his church, 

The Rafidhi bloodied at Kerbala’ 

And the Manda’i crying out for water, which will be dried up by the sun of strangers.

Look

We are nearly extinct.

Our black treasure

Well of thirst

You terrorized our hearts

It’s time for us to touch Your heart;

Your ancient heart that we read about in books.

*

Ahmed Abdul Hussein is an Iraqi poet born in Baghdad in 1966. He joined the Academy of Fine Arts/ Plastic Arts Department. In 1990 he fled Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime. He has worked as a cultural editor for multiple newspapers. He lived for five years in Canada, then returned home after a 16-year exile. He published a number of poetry collections, including:  Painful Beliefs: Part 1; Baptize Me with Waves of Wine; Paradise of Nothingness; Painful Beliefs: Part 2; Thirst Does Not End, Neither Does the Fountain; Proof Concerning the Falsehood of the World; and, most recently, A Child Playing with Theology.

Khalida Hamid Tisgam is an Assistant Professor in the University of Baghdad’s College of Education for Women in the Department of English. She has translated 15 books in different cultural and philosophical topics, as well as dozens of articles, book reviews, interviews and studies (in philosophy, cultural studies, literary criticism, poetry, art, and mysticism) published in different Iraqi and Arab newspapers and magazines.