Poetry by Ra’ad Abdulqadir: ‘The Song of the Eternal Citizen’

This year, Ugly Duckling Presse brought out a must-have anthology of poetry by Ra’ad Abdulqadir, Except for This Unseen Thread, translated by poet Mona Kareem:

As Kareem writes in her introduction to Except for this Unseen Thread, Abdulqadir “the kind of poet loved and envied by both his contemporaries and the generations that followed,” but:” Now, though, he has been underrated and forgotten.” Thanks to Kareem’s translation, Abdulqadir’s gift for animating the world we ignore has begun circulating in English; here, Iraqi poet Ghareeb Iskander translates Abdulqadir’s “The Song of the Eternal Citizen.”

The Song of the Eternal Citizen (1)

By Ra‘ad  Abdulqadir 

Translated by Ghareeb Iskander

أغنية المواطن الأبدي (1)

رعد عبد القادر

يا عزيزي بماذا ستفيدنا مواطنيتك الأبدية؟

لم يبق عندنا شيء

بعنا حتّى خاتم الزواج

بعنا المصباح

بعنا الملابس




بعنا أبواب البيت





My dear, what will your eternal citizenship bring us?

We have nothing left

We sold the wedding ring

The lamp

The clothes

The fridge

The stove

The television

We sold the house’s doors

The chairs

The days

The trees

The telephone.  

بعنا نار الشتاء

بعنا نجوم الصيف




أطلس العالم

كتاب الطبخ

أنساب الآلهة

محكمة الشعب

المجموعة الكاملة لحواء

رسائل الثورة الفرنسية

محاورات أفلاطون

بعنا الأعياد:

بعنا عيد الأم

عيد الشجرة

والعيد الصغير

والعيد الكبير

بعنا حتى أعيادنا في الروزنامة الوطنية

We sold winter’s fire

The stars of the summer



The birds

The World’s Atlas

The Cooking Book

The Genealogy of Gods

The People’s Court

The Complete Collection of Eve

The French Revolution’s Letters

Plato’s Dialogues

We sold festivals:

 Mother’s Day

Tree Day

The Lesser Eid

And the Big Eid

We sold out even our holidays in the national calendar.

يا عزيزي بماذا ستفيدنا قصائدك الوطنية؟

قصيدتك في هجاء الجنرال مود

او قصيدك في موت غازي

أو قصائدك عن الموصل وكركوك والبصرة

أو قصائدك عن الزراعة والأفلاك

أو قصائدك عن أعظم الشهور

لن يقبلها تاجر العاديات.

– قنينة العطر الفارغة بمائة دينار-

ماذا سنأكل اليوم؟

البرق لا يؤكل


-الأزهار أكلناها-

آلهتنا بلا أعشاب

النار لا تؤكل


الملائكة لا يطبخون

الشعر لا يؤكل

ماذا سنأكل اليوم؟ أساطير؟

My dear, how will your patriotic poems benefit us?

Your satire poem about General Maude,

Your poem about the death of King Ghazi,

Your poems about Mosul, Kirkuk, and Basra,

Your poems about agriculture and astronomy

Or your poems about the greatest month

The junk shop won’t accept them.

An empty perfume bottle is on sale for just one hundred dinars!

What will we eat today?

Neither lightning is edible

Nor the clouds

– We ate the flowers –

Our gods are without herbs

Neither fire is edible

Nor the stars

Angels don’t cook

Poetry is inedible

What will we eat today? Legends?

ماذا تكتب يا عزيزي؟ هيروغليفيات؟

نعم يا عزيزتي

سأشتري لك خبزاً من طروادة

وحبراً لدجلة

وريحاً لثمود:

الخبز لكِ ولأطفالنا الصغار

والحبر لدجلة

والريح لثمود، ولي

سأغني بعذوبة بدلاً من البلبل الميت

أغنية المواطن الأبدي

What are you writing, my dear? Hieroglyphs?

Yes, my love

I’ll buy you bread from Troy

And ink for the Tigris

And wind for Thamud:

Bread is for you and our little children

And the ink for the Tigris

And the wind for Thamud, and for me

I’ll sing sweetly instead of the dead nightingale

The song of the eternal citizen.


Ra‘ad  ‘Abdulqādir (1953-2003) was an Iraqi poet and journalist. He published about fifteen books of poetry.  This poem, written in 1995, was selected from al-Majmūʻa al-Kāmila (Complete Collection) (Baghdād: Dār al-Shu’ūn al-thaqāfiyya al-‘Āmma, 2013). It describes the effect of the sanctions imposed by the United Nation Security Council on Iraq from 1991 to 2003. Those sanctions destroyed the Iraqi social fabric, and the biggest loser were the people, not the dictatorial regime.

Ghareeb Iskander is an Iraqi poet living in London. He published serval books including A Chariot of Illusion (Exiled Writers Ink, London 2009); Gilgamesh’s Snake and Other Poems, a bilingual collection, which won Arkansas University’s Arabic Translation Award for 2015 (Syracuse University Press, New York 2016); English Poetry and Modern Arabic Verse: Translation and Modernity (I. B. Tauris, London 2021). He was the featured writer of Scottish Pen in 2014. Ghareeb received his PhD from SOAS, University of London in comparative literature with an emphasis on literary translation.  

More by Abdulqadir:

“Feed” and “In Front of Stone Ovens” in The Brooklyn Rail, tr. Mona Kareem

Ra’ad Abdul Qadir’s ‘Minorities’, tr. Mona Kareem

‘A Song for the Lightning Bird’, tr. Mona Kareem

More on Abdulqadir:

How Ra’ad Abdulqadir Changed the Iraqi Prose Poem Forever by Mona Kareem