BAGHDAD, MON AMOUR
You cannot be crucified
On the side of a page
Of a story that is not your own,
Nor to the rhythm of the deaths that brood your plagues
Because there will be no cry to relieve your grief.
You cannot be crucified on the banks of the streams
Your body bleeds,
When the Euphrates washes away the secret of its soul
At the birth of a new defeat.
I know this:
No wound deserves a war.
You cannot be crucified at nightfall,
When you did not close your prayers
On the body of palm trees
Because there is no honorable assassin.
You cannot be crucified for the cinders of calamities,
For the tombs of your gods,
Or for the belief of a dying humanity.
Baghdad mon amour,
Not son, nor father, nor God,
No prophet crowned by the church will save your soul,
Not that of Mecca,
Not that of those who refuse
To share the olive trees in Palestine.
This is my notebook of war,
The years of exiles folded in a suitcase
Too long abandoned to the dreams of the convicted.
This is my share of victims,
My share of moon,
My harvest of nothingness,
My share of dust, words and cries.
This is my misfortune
Like a comma locking a line of ink.
Baghdad my love,
I was crouched in the corner of the page
In the shelter of the arid days,
Far from the torrents of blood
That carry the name of those shot with the silence of man.
Baghdad, mon amour,
Sitting like a Bedouin in a mirage
Lying on my shores, I cherished my own shroud.
Far from the cross, Fatima’s palm and the star of David
Far from their books, their wars
Wandering in the sand of the dunes,
From the steppe to the city
I drag my body from season to season,
I trail you along from the couch to the mirror, from my room to the street
Between my writing and my solitude
In the shelter of their cemeteries,
Their martyrs, their morgues.
Baghdad my love,
You cannot tremble at the threshold of these ruins of days,
A civilization trained to kill
Violated your virginity.
Baghdad, city forever rebellious against your torturer Saddam,
You cannot groan at the only revelation of this hegemony,
Those who rushed around your body at death’s door,
These “liberators” are their accomplices.
City of peace,
Love in the soul of writing.
Baghdad my wound,
My father the working man died without knowing joy,
My mother mislaid her youth in the mirror
And the only witness to my first grief on your breast
Is the breath of the sand,
The starry sky and God’s gaze on the call to prayer.
I wished so much today that man had never discovered fire
And cursed it to advance so much in its own din.
This soil that gave birth to me, today put to death.
Oh mother! I want to return inside your flesh
To hear the beating of your heart,
To quench my thirst in the murmur of your breath.
Translated by Molly Deschenes from Le cimetiere des oiseaux (editions de l’aube, Paris, 2003)
—from Rattle #22, Winter 2004
Tribute to Poets Writing Abroad
Salah al Hamdani has lived as an Iraqi exile in France for nearly thirty years. He left Iraq after a stay in prison, and continues to fight against the henchmen of Saddam Hussein, as well as the Anglo-American occupants. The actor, director, and poet is author of several books, both in Arabic and French.