Nothing is left of the revolution’s bells save echoes
Nor of poetry’s horse save the bridle
Nor of freedom’s road save fixed and flying checkpoints
I have spent my childhood, youth and the entire length of the march to freedom and liberation, amid rifles, machine guns, chains, tanks, armored vehicles, armed patrols and combat air patrols, while every other step:
Stop: What do you have in your suitcase?
Stop: What do you have in your pockets?
Stop: What do you have in your mouth?
Stop: Where are you going?
Stop: Where do you come from?
Whenever I wanted to jump over this reality, I only land in jail!
. . .
Indeed we have entered the twenty first century
But as a fly would a king’s room!
Iraq’s future is bleak
Palestine’s future is bleak
Freedom’s future is bleak
Unity’s future is bleak
Liberation’s future is bleak
Economy’s future is bleak
Culture’s future is bleak
Love’s future is bleak
Climate’s future is bleak
On top of that:
There’s a media blackout
a political blackout
a military blackout
an economic blackout
a cultural blackout
a sectarian blackout
On top of that an electric outage every half hour,
yet, despite it all, they only speak of transparency these days.
They took up my style in loafing, wearing hats,
lighting up joints, blowing off smoke,
grumbling at beggars and alms seekers,
how I greet,
my ire at public complaints,
then my way of embracing the bar,
in turning my back at everyone
and clapping for the bartender
the number of glasses I have,
and the amount of dregs I leave behind.
Then they took over my table at the café
my writing rituals
the size of the notebooks I use
and the color of the ink with which I write
Now… they want my hand
with its wrinkles
and the old gazelle tattoo on it!
O ye blacksmiths
O ye carpenters
O ye stonecutters
O ye trumpeters in military parades
O ye drummers in scout bands
O ye Ramadan drummers in poor neighborhoods
O ye peddlers in busy markets
O ye women brawling from your windows
O ye cars and trucks divers
O ye traffic officers
O ye sport matches fans
O ye orators and cheerers in official processions
O ye car drifters by day and night
Keep your voices down
The sounds of your whistles, horns, and hammers too.
Talk in whispers,
The homeland is dying.
[Translated from the Arabic by Ahmad Diab. From Shar `Adan, Gharb Allah (East of Aden, West of God) Damascus: Dar al-Mada, (2005)]