(From al-Bayati’s elegies, dedicated to his daughter Nadiya who died in California in 1990)
He who dies in his diaspora
Dies a martyr
…She was a poet who did not pen verses
but lived more fully
than those who created poetry
a tool of hollow fame for themselves
she died a martyr in the sanctuary
in her diaspora
a martyr of vision, of tragedy
Is it just for you to die?
Is just for my lighthouses to collapse?
your tomb is in exile
and in the homeland
your tomb resides in every place where light and shrouds radiate.
What is more hell than this world?
Oh God, how often exile crushed our hearts
here we exist on the list of the dead
our eyes have turned into stone
on the dark side of our planet
exiled in the cities of ice
(We will reach in Rome…)
a slogan swept by the winds
over the streets of this world
in this age of exile and defection
America the exile
the third world ‘s regions
all have buried the ghost of our dead
while our names were lost in dossiers
in the mail
How often I beseeched you
to let love and faith
bring back man and the revolution of the spirit
America: the knife and the wound
bier of the bird migrating under its western skies
the princess of dreams lies in peace
I hear her in the wind’s sighs
She opens her eyes
and whispers: Oh Father: Winter howls like a wolf
in the wilderness of snow and ashes
I feel the cold
as I felt it there
I see snow on the trees
She asks: father, why do we no longer set fires in the mountains?
Why do we no longer wear our winter coats?
You were a sunflower
and I, the sun,
your root curls in my blood
your eyes bathe in my light
I watch the sun set,
the night close in on us
like the tribes of birds migrating
some are taken captive;
others die leaving their young orphans
to the wind and the rain
you were our garden
you bore sacrifices for us
in exile and in the homeland
for us you were the apple of the eye
a guardian angel
has the heart betrayed you?
and you slept
when will the angel return from her heaven?
Translated from the Arabic by Salih J. Altoma
This poem appeared in Al Jadid Vol. 5, no. 28 (Summer 1999).
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