The snow comes down white
Covering all the mountains with whiteness
The snow comes down white on Kurdistan’s
mountains too
But it soon become red.

Translated by Muna Zinati




When I was young
I wanted to be a tiger with strong claws
to attack anyone who would block my path.
When I grew up, I wanted to be a tiger
who would travel around the world, without claws.
When I got old
I wanted to be just a tiger,
or a tiger
who has a house and a roof
to protect himself from the claws of tigers.

Translated by Margaret Saine




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




I look at Beethoven’s figure
He appears sad
Crowds of Kurds
inspect the city center with their steps
Nothing dwells in them except longing
Beethoven cries
I look at the Rhine
cleaving the city into two
It appears sad
Is it sad for the Euphrates?
The Euphrates is sad.

Translated by Sinan Antoon




(For me, in a quarter of a century, more or less)

Tomorrow you will be an old man
The cane always with you
You will walk alone
You will mutter to yourself like all old geezers do
You will become obstinate, hard of hearing, and slow
You will ask for help when you need it
and no one will respond
You will dream of the past
and the good old days
While your grandson will think of the future
and days to come
You will curse this vapid generation
Repeating like a broken record
How wonderful our generation was
You will be the butt of jokes in the family
They will laugh at you and your positions
which you think are right on
Your lips will let a sarcastic smile
whenever they mention words like stubbornness,
vigor, and faith in the future
You might even laugh
Your bones will soften
Sicknesses will roam freely in your body
without permission
All your desires will be extinguished
except the desire to die
There will be no friend or companion
Loneliness will be your support and comrade
You will always be ready to depart
The threshold of the grave will entice you and keep you company
All the angels will betray you and leave
Only Azrael will approach you as a last friend
Perhaps you will say just as you are about to go:
If I die, burry me here in the strangers’ cemetery
Perhaps these words
will be you your final wish.

Translated by Sinan Antoon

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