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Four Poems by Sargon Boulus

[Sargon Boulus. Image from Samuel Shimon] [Sargon Boulus. Image from Samuel Shimon]

[The Iraqi poet Sargon Boulus (1944-22 October, 2007), one of the pioneers of modern Arabic poetry, died five years ago in a hospital in Berlin. We celebrate his legacy with these translations of four of his poems. You can read more about his life and works here.]


Four Poems

Sargon Boulus

Translated by Sinan Antoon


Eve’s House

When I am lost

her eyes

guide me

from below

The silence

in her house

is deeper

than a forest

The world

around us

is a sea

(Humans have not been created)

There is a nocturnal bird

in the garden

Its monotonous singing

accompanies our descent

from one abyss

to the next


A Note From a Traveler

When I saw

death performing its ablutions in the fountain

People around me crossing the streets in their sleep

It seemed that my dreams were

pyramids of sand

crumbling before my eyes

I saw my day fleeing

in the opposite direction

far away from that cursed city. . . 


We choose the beginning

But the end chooses us

And there is no road

except the road



The musician is in his corner

Gently embracing his oud, as if listening

to a pregnant belly

His fingers torture the strings

The dancer’s body is utterly seized

under the lights

Bending in the fourth dimension

Where no tickets are sold


We, the spectators, stay here with our chairs

The stage is empty


An Elegy for Sindibad Cinema

There is a road

Adorned with ceilings

Washed by memory

until they are white

Under a sky at the apex of its agony

Where I walk

Where my words want to rise like the stairs of a castle

Like sounds ascending the lost scale

One note after another

In my friend’s notebook

The oud player who died of his own silence in the desolation of exile

I find that sound

I find the building and open a door to it:

Our time; how it lost its tickets!

It is flowing in the dark

Like a tiny stream of voices

The voices of those who no longer have a voice

They told me

that they had demolished Sindibad Cinema

What a loss!

Who will sail now?

Who will meet the old man at sea?

They demolished those evenings

Our white shirts, Baghdad summers

Spartacus, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Samson and Delila

How will we dream of travelling now?

And to which island?

They demolished Sindibad Cinema 

Heavy with water

is the hair of the drowned man

Who returned to the party

After they turned off the lights

Piled the chairs on the barren riverbank

and chained the waves of the Tigris

 * * *

[Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. The first three poems are from Sargon Boulus, Hamil al-Fanus fi Laylal-Dhi’ab (The Lamp Carrier in the Wolves’ Night) (Cologne: Dar al-Jamal, 1996) pp. 71, 84, and 85. “An Elegy for Sindibad Cinema” (Martiya ila Sinama al-Sindibad) is from Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2008) pp. 173-174]    

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