In this late hour
A hundred years after
Your majestic death
I read all of them
One by one great poem
As if you were writing them today
Poet of the soul and the body
Of the leaves of grass and democracy
In this late hour
Sad and desperate
Bleak and forlorn
With guilty conscience
And bad intentions
On the brink of the abyss
my background is Lebanese
and peaceful, I said
proud of redundancy
my father tripoli
on the clear coast, a boy
diving for sea urchins
now the tides cast
Return to us
oh, our age,
oh, age of rubber stamps,
oh, crack of whips
on our skins,
oh, shackles without a crime,
return to us
our old eyes
our sad black doors,
Why don’t you take your past with you and
Leave my path?
We have finished, ended,
And we remembered much, and forgot much.
With our own hands we cast away
All the deep love we carefully guarded
All that we guard in distant past:
Women of my country,
a common light hardens your bodies,
and a common darkness lets them rest
in a soft elegy of change.
Yes, yesterday has ended.
The sun ended the joys of our weddings,
our circumstances have deteriorated
our thoughts retarded
wolves have torn off our flesh
Whenever freedom rained down anywhere in the world,
Arab regimes rush out to cover their people with umbrellas,
fearing that they would "catch cold."
Why would the Arabs appear to cling to everything and anything?
Are they about to drown?
Were you my Friend? One of the major themes in his poetry is his exile, or rather his self-exile. The coup d'etat of 1963 and subsequent events forced hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqi intellectuals, writers, poets, and artists to seek refuge elsewhere. Today, they are spread out in all five continents. This dispersal of Iraqi intellectuals has been aptly termed the "Iraqi diaspora." The fact that al-Haydari lived almost half of his life in exile affected his poetry in a very significant way. In a poem entitled Were You my Friend?, he wrote:
This Iraq will reach the ends of the graveyard.
It will bury its sons in open country
Generation after generation,
And it will forgive its despot…
It will not be the Iraq that once held the name.
And the larks will not sing.
So walk – if you wish – a long time.