On Malmö's bridge
I saw the Euphrates
extending its hands
and leading me-
Where to? I said.
The dream was hardly over
when I saw the Umayyad soldiers
besieging me from every direction.
Farewell to a window
in the land of ruins
Farewell to a palm tree, bombed, stripped of its greenness
Farewell to my mother's clay oven
Farewell to our jaded history piled up on racks
Farewell to a bitter homeland that we leave behind
but where to?
bitterness of exile?
Nothing is left of the palm trees that shaded me
except pale images
and trunks of gallows
that demand our heads
And the Euphrates, which baptized me with its pains,
still meanders, coursing with the sorrows of listless
if only you had not arrived
if only the road to Malmö were longer
who has not seen
a moment of joy?
How does every exile turn into a prison without walls?
Adnan Al-Sayegh (also spelled al-Sa'igh) was born in Kufa, Iraq, in 1955. He has published more than ten collections, including his most recent work, Ta'abbata Manfa (2001). The title (literally "Carrying Exile under His Arm"), which may be translated as "Bearing Exile," refers to a pre-Islamic renegade poet widely known by his nickname, "Ta'abbata Sharran" (He put a mischief under his armpit). Sayigh's reference in this poem to "the Umayyad soldiers" serves as a double allusion associating the martyrdom of Husayn in Karbala (AD 680) at the hands of the Umayyad soldiers with the Iraqi regime's persecution or martyrdom of Shiite dissidents.
Published in: World Literature Today, Vol. 77, No. 3 (2003) USA