"Prayer for Homs"
Faraj Bayrakdar




I will come to Homs shortly,
I will enter it safely,
protected by its people and
my faith in them.
For almost twenty years
of absence, obsession and delusion.
for twenty years
abandoned at its crossroads

"Quick Bread"

Hashem Shafik

The planes bombarded the bakeries
the wheat was martyred
then the bread died.
What troubled person 
is chasing the dough?  
In what province, what country
could flour become a fugitive

To Whom Does The Homeland Belong?

Abd al-Wahhab-al-Bayati

To whom does the homeland belong?
the mercenary killer or the jailer?
o' my lady
or does it belong to
the rain man?
Nazik, Sayyab, and Jawahiri?*
or to the man who steals
bread, the medicine, our homeland?


(*) Reference to Three leading Iraqi poets: Badr Shakir
al-Sayyab (1926-1964), Muhammad Mahdi al- Jawahiri
(1900-1997) and Nazik al- Mala’ikah (1923-2007)

This Poem appeared  in Al Jadid Vol. 5 no.  28, 1999

Translated from the Arabic by Salih J. Altoma

The Dream of Returning

Buland al-Haydari

I dream of returning, oh my city,
to our house whose candles are extinguished.
I dream of returning
to light the candle
to open the window for the wind,
to leave the key behind the door
for thieves
for visitors
for promises.

A Butterfly from Jisr al-Shoghour


This poem is by the Syrian poet Hala Muhammad



The butterfly landed on my hand this morning
My only complaint is 
The beauty of its colors


This morning
The blue sky did not rise
Neither did Hamza wake


The butterfly said: I am Turkish. . . and you?
The refugee said:  I …

The butterfly said: how old are you?
The refugee girl said: I died seven days ago.

The butterfly said: where is your homeland?
The girl said: my home

Damascene Alley

Nizar Kabbani

... I roam the narrow alleys of Damascus
while hazel eyes awaken behind the windows
and greet me.
The stars put on their golden bracelets
and greet me.
The doves alight from their towers
and greet me.
The clean Damascene cats,
who were born, grew up, and were married alongside us,
come out to greet me.

Excerpt from Nizar Kabbani’s long poem “Ablution with Rose Water and Jasmine.” Translated from the Arabic by Ghada Alatrash

This poem appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 64

Come to the Jasmine

Nizar Kabbani

I enter the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque
and greet everything in it,
tile to tile,
and dove to dove.
I wander in the gardens of Kufi script
and I pluck beautiful flowers from the discourse of God.
I hear with my eyes the voice of the mosaics
and the music of agate prayer beads.
A state of revelation and bliss overtakes me,
so I climb the steps of the first minaret I encounter
and call out:
“Come to the jasmine,”
“Come to the jasmine.” *

Ten Identity Cards

Buland al-Haydari


I went out tonight
In my pocket were ten identity cards
which permit me to go out
My name Buland son of Akram,
I did not kill anyone, I did not rob
In my pocket were ten identity cards
which testify to that.
Therefore, why can't I go out tonight?


A Ghost in Damascus

Ghada Samman

A thousand years ago, I used to pace back and forth all night
on my balcony in the Square of the Damascus Star,
calling for a love that never comes.
Today, they destroyed the building, but the balcony still hangs
and my ghost still paces back and forth all night…
in search of a love that never comes!

Translated from the Arabic by Rim Zahra and Razzan Zahra


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