I used to,
I often used to hope
as autumn painted forests with gold
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.
As fall winds wailed
in the surrounding hills
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
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--
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)