Poem of the Week – Black Iraqi Woman




My father said: “You were born quite unexpectedly,

Remote from Aksum, like a beauty spot for al-Najaf-’the Virgin’s Cheek.’

Your one obsession has been writing, but

The sea will run dry before you arrive at the meaning of meaning.”

He affirmed: “During a pressing famine,

I devoted myself to watching over every breath you took.

I would thrust my hand through the film of hope

To caress your spirit with bread.

You would burp, and

I would delightedly endure my hunger and fall asleep.

I could only find the strength to fib to your face and say I was happy.

I would feel devastated when you fidgeted,

Because you would always head toward me,

And I felt helpless.”

Aksum! They say you’re far away!

“No, it’s closer to you than your exile.”

“And now?”

“Don’t talk about ‘now’ while we’re living it.”

“The future depresses me. How can I proceed?”

How can the ear be deaf to the wailing from the streets?

Aksum, you have colored my skin. Al-Najaf has freshened my spirit.

She knows and does the opposite.

She knows that I inter only dirt above me, and

That I deny everything except spelling out words:

M: Mother, who went walking down the alley of no return.

F: Father, who hastened after her.

B: Brother, who never earned that title.

S: Sister who buttoned her breast to a loving tear, no matter how fake.

………………….There’s no one I care about!

The trees tremble some times, and we don’t ask why.

My life surrounds me the way prison walls surround suspects;

I am the victim of a building erected by a frightened man.

With its talons time scratches its tales on me,

And I transform them into a silent song

Or, occasionally, a psalm of sobs.

Father, do you believe that–the roots have been torn asunder?

Fantasies began to carry me from al-Najaf to Afyon

And from Afyon to nonexistence,

Yellow teeth stretching all the way.

“History’s not anything you’ve made,”

One American neighbor tells another.

He’s surprised to see me.

“Who are you?” he asks when he doesn’t believe his eyes.

Would he understand the truth of my origin if I told him I was born in al-Najaf

Or that Aksum has veiled my face?

I have walked and walked and walked.

I’m exhausted, Father.

Is your child mine?

Show yourself and return me to the purity of your loins.

Allow me to occupy the seventh vertebra of fantasy!

Don’t eject me into a time I don’t fit.

I need you.

I ask you:

Has my Lord forbidden me to be happy?

Am I forbidden to preserve

What I have left

And sit some warm evening

Averting my ear from a voice that doesn’t interest me?

Answer me, Father!

Or change the face of our garden

So it changes….to what they believe!

-Copyright 2014 © Faleeha Hassan  (Translated by William Hutchins)

More about the Poet: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/contributor/faleeha-hassan

More poetry by Faleeha Hassan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU6zJuH8NII

Image credit: http://sjmagazine.net/july-2016/poet


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