Hussein Habasch - MY MOTHER’S CHANTS

1. The Vision Chant
This morning, my mother was sitting alone at home
Mending my brother Mahmoud’s pants
Torn by yesterday’s mischief
The needle pierced her finger and warm blood flowed on the thread
The pants were stained and my mother’s thoughts were muddled
She swore to my father and the neighbors
that she saw me or my shadow
Or saw me without my shadow passing before her this morning
And when she saw me
she was so eager she was confused and was about to hug me
But the needle betrayed her and pierced her finger
Was I really there
or was it my mother’s heart?

2. The Longing Chant
Thirty years and I am still running with a barefoot heart
Whenever I see a woman wearing a long dress
Or a white scarf on her head
I call out to her: Mother, mother
Thirty years and six thousand miles
Exiled from roses, morning sunrise, and the face of angels,
mother’s face
Thirty years
Whenever I write about a woman
Whenever I draw a woman
I find myself writing about my mother
clothing the image with my mother’s colors
Thirty shrouds, thirty graves, thirty . . .
I treat with hope and peace of mind
Whenever I lay my head
on my mother’s chest.

3. The Passion Chant
The inscriptions on the walls of our mud house
The yellow paint on the door
The family picture carefully hung next to Imam Ali’s
The traces of a tattoo on the baking tin
The big quiet stone next to the door
Always ready to receive guests
Shelves crowded with old newspapers
The lamp philosophizing with a long luminous tongue
The hanging mat always ready for prayer
The sacred laugh that brought all this passion
and this weariness
is my mother’s laugh.

Translated by Sinan Antoon