Basim Furat was born in Karbalaa, Iraq in 1967 and started writing poetry when
he was in primary school. His first poem was published when he was still in high
school. In early 1993 he crossed the border and became a refugee in Jordan.
Four years later he arrived in New Zealand. The death of his father when he was
two years old, the fact his mother was left a young widow and his compulsory
military service for the Iraqi army in the second Gulf War have had a large
influence on his poetry. His poetry has been published all over the world, and
has been translated into French, Spanish and English. His first poetry book in
Arabic was published in Madrid in 1999 and the second one was published in
Amman, Jordan, in 2002. He is a member of the Union of Arab Writers and is
the New Zealand co-ordinator for Joussour, an Australasian Arabic/English
magazine. In 2004 HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, New Zealand, published
his first book of translations in English entitled Here and There.
I say a woman and don't mean "Karbalaa"
(Translated from the Arabic by Najah Al-jubaily,
Edited by Mark Pirie)
All of them
Are my shadows...
My dreams to a hearth;
My fingers stagger in it.
The house doors become tired of wailing.
My mother's aba is like a flag flapping hopelessly
And hopelessly my steps wander the times.
Nostalgia corrodes in my tongue,
And one who kept silent doesn't shed my shadow in vain.
Instead, he sets free my forests by his sand.
Narcissus procreates in my hand;
Yet there is no spume in my water.
I burn the clouds,
Knowing that remembrance has thorny flasks.
I plough the sky by sea,
Knowing that tears are bluer than my joy.
I watch my follies in fancy, hoping that sparrows inherit my maze,
And listen to those who rouse war from its nap.
I see my blood trundled at the borders,
I plead to words to gather it on the page.
How can I let myrtle not point out the secrets?
In its right hand rests what nips at the vision,
And here the candles I have forgotten
Are busy with my bed.
I say: It's time for your fields to lisp my name!
And then you ignite your stars to see my light
From a distance, the court of my hymn appears.
O, don't make your sky sleepless with the branch of wisdom!
For in order not to plant my letters
And show my anger
All of them are my shadows...
The springs point to me,
And date palms wave,
Despite the thick plumes from the prisons.
The stations with their dull yawning
Eat my years.
O my years - that were punched by the shelters!
One who's buried his Narcissi
Wears it for sheer consolation
Contemplating my fate, and slaps his bell
Washing his thirst from his waiting.
He is pointing to the rivers, and cries "Ascend your isthmus inexorably!"
For Black* is pale and gasping, without madness
Knocking at my door, hoping to touch the sky.
I behold the windows
And see their fancy pervade my lungs
Till I forget that my remembrances are sleepless
And hanging by their coo.
O my steps: the wilderness can't contain you!
Why do you knock at your dreams mercilessly
And watch the angel descend
To tear the heart of the country, and place my song within it?
I draw steps - unlike mine - on the roads.
How can it reach me?
How can I expel
From my head
And not let the chirps of birds
How can I denude my father
Of his caliphate
And not let the Euphrates overflow in my hand?
How can I say a Woman
And not mean "Karbalaa"!
I say: City!
And my mother doesn't perk up, wearing all the night and seeming white.
The flute flows in drops in my mouth,
And you bring me back to the beginning of the tale,
The beginning of the tale in which I bathe in conviction.
I see the Indian jasmine wrapping my sleep
Crowded, and accompanying the streets.
The women, going across, spell it
Except for one. It spells her ashamedly and heads to me.
I didn't hide my childhood in my shirt
But my childhood stole me from war,
And I prepared my heart for it as a bed and woke up.
I called to my pain; it looked through the window
Scared of the neighbours.
I gestured to it with my hands
And soon it brimmed with tears
Fearful that the poem
Might (finally) be complete.
* Note: Iraq has many names: Sumeria, Mesopotamia, and also "the land of
the Black," symbolizing that the country was once covered in date palms.
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