Al-Bab Asharqi (Baghdad Downtown)

1. Alleys

A gate for the distant place and death.

With our bloody coats
we will bring down the city where the bottom
is our opportunity
to restore our old night
back to the day when our inheritance used to be
nothing but dung and mud.

The alleyways were an open darkness
with nothing but spearheads that smack its lips
with open mouths
wanting to swallow the city.

My companion said: we will gather the stars and make necklaces for our dried brides
on rope of waiting,
the dogs are our misled friends
together we will break into the treasury
so sing O, my sky
and be my witness.

The bullets renewed
in its stalemate, the road signs were hidden.
The dead went out towards their smells
dragged by the canine of their wounded dogs.
At the locked angle of the gate of the Armenian Church
a female squatted
squeezed by labor.
A thread of madness
was coming out of her bloody dress.

They went past the 'Betawin'”(10) to the bridge.
Over there they deflowered the maidenhead of the spoils
and wept for their lost friends.

2. The game

As if we came to our favorite
We sell the day on the pavements
and hung the night
on the posts.
Our time is an opportunity
to mix hope with sorrow.
Our time is
ash we scatter on
The white newspapers,
our time is …. kohl.

From the east, another gang embarked upon us.
They gathered behind the old wall of Baghdad
until they burst into the graveyard
where they unwrapped their merchandise:
Corpses, fiery bullets and "green papers"(11).

O, country we do not want you,
we intersect with the jinn and the dead
to complete our rush to the price.

They were veiled like us,
there is no winner but the darkness and the ravening.
Our master said be a space
so they can pass
and at the tunnel be aware of the start of fire.
Grip their death all of a sudden
when you get the signal,
our master said.

Because of his excess impoliteness
The night becomes long,
as if its stars were nailed with nails
or as if the guards
out of inattention , forgot
the button of dawn
so we took a break at the statue of 'Hurriea''(12).
We rapped ourselves with beggars clothes and slumbered
in the garden
we did not know
that our companions planned
to keep the booty to themselves.

3. The Cost

She was shooing the dogs from her flesh
while shrieking like a carcass.
Her howling madness
penetrates the night and pavement,
her madness cuts off her umbilical cord
and draws the curtains on the “Tayaran square”(13).


Like a revolving record
we encircled the "Nasr square"(14).
and lay in wait behind the statue of “Muhsen Assaadoon”(15).
They were wearing death
while our hearts were burnt with hatred.

I came back to my sanctuary behind the clinics.
In a room at the dark of "Baghdad's lights" hotel
I took my share of pills
and hid the equipment of death in my clothes.
The companions had their share of drinks
when we made our way to the bed
of our idiot neighbor.

In the stagnant roads we stumbled.
Our chests were opened
to the swords of bullets and darkness.
The smell of betrayal
was behind us
dragging a moon towards the pit.
Terrors possessed us.
My hand did not recognize me.
In every second, a question and a mature end.
I looked,
the figures of
“ Faieq Hassan's”(16) monument came down
from their places
and chased us.

She was kneeling down.
Wrapped with terror and darkness.
O, bride take one bread
and a drink to quench you,
my girl, take happiness…
and be …careful.
When we went out laughing
she was swimming in blood…
She was hungry.


I am stuck with blackness
and you are deep in reassurance!
All this bright red
is streaming from the hair of the evening
and you are asleep!
How lucky you are!
Take my sign then :
when the horizon narrows
the symbols will be meaningless
So is our waiting
behind the walls of tranquility.

I feel giddy.
Who are you veiled, laid man?
I know your trousers, your shirt is dyed with blood!
O, God I know these fingers
and these feet!
O, God lead (guide) me to the head!
O, God guide me.

The howling of the dogs gradually brought the first light.
We will follow you in front of “Granada Cinema”, before darkness breaks
we will collect our blood and rush towards the bridge,
save the bullets for another round.
I tell you I have swallowed my death like cats,
from here their shadows passed and over there , they will bury their secrets. So obey me,
despite my youth, I, no one else,
remain your last refuge.

They did not understand the phrase
so I threw them with my amputated arm
and entered the Tigris like a prophet
enters the cave.
As if its magical water a carpet flew me
to the big valley
clinging to my slaughtered dreams.

The green darkness
is buzzing under our feet
I smelt the sand of the river
mixed with treason.

                                                                                                                                  Translated by Khaloud Al-Muttalibi
                                                                                                                                                                     Edited by the poet.