Nouri al-Jarrah

Translated from the Arabic by Mohammed Kadalah.


Your poem is blind
your voice is blind,
but the breeze soothes the valley
and the grass whispers to the murdered.
Wheat stalks grow taller
to see
the trembling of the hill.

The harvester’s neck is the wound the plow makes
from the flank of the Euphrates to the blood cave at the shoulder of Mount Qasioun.
Vehicles hiss and pass,
enormous chains mark the villages’ roads,
blind vehicles shoot hellish fire at family photographs.
Mothers shield boys under one wall and another,
hide their virgins in the rubble of curtains.
Clay walls fall,
the ears of summer wheat break into pieces,
one summer has passed and another is preparing,
the wild wind brings a summer with blood on its collar.

The robe held by the teenager didn’t reach his grandfather
who was shot by a sniper,
and fluttered in the middle of the road.
No children remain,
the grinding molar of death crushed them and spat them out behind the hill.
I’m not writing a poem; I’m tearing up my hands in sheets of paper.


Who stayed here
to bleed?
Who stayed here
to read what the horizon had written in the papers
and what a poet had left in his poem?

The clouds of children travel
and the hill waves.

Pictures shake and like the sun setting in the eye,
the boy whose strength was torn away by the land lies down, bleeding, and waits for his father’s hand.
Pictures set in pictures,
the smile of he who went to pick berries in a summer that has gone.
But numbness embraces him,
it brings back the laughing boy to his father’s hand.

The horizon is broken,
rain plays with the plates of children.

The actor said, “I was voiceless before today.
My theatre was hanged on a curtain,
death stole my clothes,
and my voice disappeared
in a well.”

A girl said, “I was without eyes,
and now I have become a butterfly.”
The athlete said, “My blood is my voice.”
He rolled the cart of cheers down the isle of death,
the boy exchanged the day with his smile.

In the orchard, where a planet has fallen,
and where the land of contentment cracked under bleeding steps,
a farmer said to a boy whose head had been broken on a rock:
“I hear the shudder of winter in my knees.”
Now his body is resting in the soldier’s bullet.
A truck carrying watermelons yesterday arrived and now
families are sleeping in red coffins,
farmers have become gravediggers,

In the distant countryside, men’s faces smiled,
now children stand in the photographs
and Death carrying his sack visits each of them.


Whose blood is running in your poem, poet?
In the remainder of time,
after the sunset split his head, my brother’s blood drips from my clothes.

Whose blood is it?
His back, broken from the west side, drips red and sunset.
Whose blood is it?
Whose blood is it?

Tell the bullets to pause for a moment,
until the poet writes his poem, opens the windows
and carries myrtle to his enshrouded body,
until a women collects her laundry,
until a bird returns from the forest,
until the eye can wander the living body of the day.


Whose blood is running in your poem, poet?
Whose blood is it that is dripping slowly from the day’s body?
Whose blood is it? Whose blood is it?
Time’s knee is cut in half,
and the wind
blows one time after another,
photos are blades; they eat those who stand in them,
soldiers bend down to take aim, and death scans the room.

A martyr who yielded another martyr to the ground said:
“Be my guide on my way to him,
and don’t be late.
Be my advocate in the story if the historians lie,
be the owner of the house,
and tell the full story:
‘The thieves set my father’s house on fire,
and stole my sister’s forehead and my brother’s hand.
They killed my cows and led my donkeys to the blood lake,
and looted the summer’s moon and the traveler’s heart.
The thieves tied the young sisters with thick ropes from the field,
and broke the teenager’s skull on the well’s stones’”

They violated the dream’s curtain,
and painted the girl’s night gowns with the dawn’s blood.

When the masks fell, I saw such a scene,
your murderous face covered my face.
Is this me? Is it my enemy?

In the field I shouted at you, and we looked at the days changing their clothes,
time leaks from the hands.
In the field I shouted at you, and in the mountain I shouted.
When we went down to the city,
I saw your eyes wandering.

Look at your hand that grew bigger and became rough,
it has been covered with my blood.

I exit through a door, and you exit through a door,
so that I build your image but you don’t build mine.
I call you:
“Come and take what you have taken,”
and with the stupid hand I cut the back with a machete,
and hit the bottom of the heart with darkness.

Come, you who has exceeded all limits until you became the son of my mother and father,
became my sister,
my daughter,
and my funeral procession.

You, with the hand that played with colors
near to my hand,
and together we lifted the childhood stone from the arm of the clock.

Nouri al-Jarrah is a Syrian poet and journalist. His most recent poetry collection is a eulogy titled A Boat to Lesbos in which he addresses the refugee crisis. Al-Jarrah’s poetry is marked by creating images using combinations of historical and religious references.

Mohammed Kadalah has most recently published translations and short prose in Lyrikline and in the anthology Voices of the Arab Spring. Born and raised in Syria, he is currently completing his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut, and he teaches Arabic at Santa Clara University.

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