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Three Poems by Saadi Youssef

[Image from unknown archive] [Image from unknown archive]


I used to,
I often used to hope
as autumn painted forests with gold
walnut brown
or muted crimson,
I so hoped to see Iraq’s face in the morning
to loosen water’s braids over me,
to satisfy its mermaids with salty tears,
to float over Abu l-Khaseeb’s rivulets to ask the trees:
Do you, trees, know where my father’s grave is?
. . .
I often used to hope!
Let it be .
Let autumn finish its cycle.
Iraq’s trees will remain naked.
Iraq’s trees will remain high.
Iraq’s trees will be secretly in the company
of my father’s face.
London, 5-21-2003



As fall winds wailed
in the surrounding hills
he said:
Are we, my friend, two rocks?
How often have the winds wailed?
How often have we been struck?
--by cold and harm?
How often have we lost our bets?
Yet we stand here.
. . .
I said:  Don't grieve.
We are the eye of time

London 6-27-2009


O Nostalgia: My enemy

We’ve been at it for thirty years.
We meet like two thieves on a journey
whose details are not fully known.
With every passing station
the train cars decrease in number,
the light grows dimmer.
But your wooden seat, occupying all trains,
still has its constants.
The etchings of years--
chalk drawings,
cameras no one remembers,
and trees that lie under dirt;
I took a look at you
for a moment,
then rushed panting to the last car
faraway from you
. . .  
I said: the road is long.
I took out my bread and a piece of cheese from my sack.
I saw you eyeing me, this way
sharing my bread and cheese!
How did you find me?
Jump at me like a hawk?
I didn’t travel tens of thousands of miles,
didn’t wander across many countries,
didn’t know thousands of branches
so that you could come now, steal my treasure,
and corner me.
Now leave your seat and get off the train,
my train will speed past after this station
--so get off,
and let me go
where no train will ever stop.


Translated by Sinan Antoon and Peter Money.
From Sa`di Yusuf,  al-A`mal al-Shi`riyya: al-Juz' al-Sadis (Beirut & Baghdad:Dar al-Jamal, 2009) 

2 comments for "Three Poems by Saadi Youssef"


awesomly amazing

youssef wrote on March 22, 2011 at 10:34 AM

This pro democratic poem is for all of those who want democratic world - a world free of tyrants and ruthless dictators.

Suppression, I accept not -Bhuwan Thapaliya

I came into this world not like the river but like a drop of water and will soon evaporate

Though, I am only a drop of water in the majestic ocean of nature I yearn to create a vigorous ripple of freedom, in the eternity of the water

For I am a man of eternal freedom, and suppression I accept not … I will not accept it

The living God within me urges me to be free, and to march on the road of freedom sans any dread

My heart, like Einstein, thinks in another dimension unknown and unknowable … even to my own mind

And like Goethe, looks at things in a different manner, different than those thinkers bestowed with pristine minds

Freedom, the gift of God, is the inherent right of every individual in this compressed world

I will fight till the end to free the masses from the grip of suppression and ignite the lamp of freedom

I will free the masses or die in the attempt but I will never live to see the naked dance of repression

I am not afraid of those suppressors, nor am I afraid of the death that they are planning for me; they can kill me but not freedom forever

My blood boils whenever I see the strong ones pulverising the lean, and my heart cries whenever I see the starving pauper in the abattoir of the prosperous butcher

For me a red rose is a red rose it is not white just because they call it white to disguise the ignorant

They can conquer Everest but not my spirit they can stagnate the river but not my impetus

They can take my sight away but not my vision of freedom

They can cut my tongue into pieces but not my voice of freedom

They can stab me with the dagger of despotism but not impede the blood of freedom

I know the road to freedom is blocked with obstacles but obstacles cause no despair if they are encountered with hope

We must act now and not merely just look away when our freedom is threatened from within

Because it is better to perish without freedom than to have a yearn for freedom but not the valour to harvest it

Don’t be a coward …

Be prepared to receive bullets to your chest because, in the struggle of freedom, tolerance of suppression is an offence

Stand up … stand up

Gather your courage. Come out into the field; let’s march hand in hand together, right beneath the nose of the suppressors, for the emancipation of our freedom

Let us not forget that …

The ocean is composed of drops of water, and all drops possess equal potentials, but only, when they mix with other drops do they form a powerful bond

So …

Listen, my oppressed brothers listen, my trodden sisters listen … listen to the natural desire of your ceaseless soul

Do not fear trust your soul and march ahead with a resolute heart for the better tomorrow

And scatter the seeds of freedom, where does it go? it does not matter scatter it more with hope

Welcome the freedom welcome it today and enjoy it evermore but do not use your freedom to suppress the people’s soul to suppress the people’s soul

Riz Khan wrote on March 25, 2011 at 12:03 PM

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