Faleeha Hassan, is currently living in the United States. She was born in Najaf, Iraq. She earned an M.A. in Arabic literature and has published several collections of poetry in Arabic: Being a Girl, A Visit to the Museum of Shade,Five Titles for My Friend-The Sea, Though Later On, Poems to Mother,Gardenia Perfume, and her collection of children’s poetry, The Guardian of Dreams. Her works of Arabic prose include Hazinia or Shortage of Joy Cellsand Water Freckles (a novella). The first six poems featured here come fromQasa’id Ummi (Poems to Mother), which was published in 2010 by Dar al-Yanabia in Damascus, Syria. Her poems have been translated into English, Italian, German, French, and Kurdish. She has received awards from the Arab Linguists and Translators Association (WATA) and the Najafi Creative Festivalfor 2012, as well as the Prize of Naziq al-Malaika, the Prize of al-Mu’tamar for poetry, and the short story prize of the Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation. She serves on the boards of Baniqya, a quarterly in Najaf, Sada al Nahrain (Echo of Mesopotamia), and the Iraqi Writers in Najaf association. She is a member of the Iraq Literary Women’s Association, The Sinonu (i.e. Swift) Association in Denmark, the Society of Poets Beyond Limits, and Poets of the World Community.
When I try to write
I sense that millions of readers are
Crowding the paper’s edge,
Kneeling, genuflecting, and lifting their hands
To pray for my poem’s safe arrival.
The moment it looms on my imagination’s horizon,
Gazing at the concept in a diaphanous gown of metaphor,
Young people smack their lips—craving double entendres.
Meanwhile, with piercing glances, the elderly scrutinize
Its juxtapositions and puns.
Then the concept smiles shyly, dazed at seeing them.
On the paper’s lines both young and old meet for a discussion,
But my words resist
And erect walls of critical theories.
Then the paths of personal confession contract,
My imagination calmly shuts down,
And the conception retreats inside my head.
At that hour, it afflicts my world with
Bouts of destruction.
Workers refuse their paychecks.
Farmer let their fields go fallow.
Women stop chatting.
Pregnant mothers refuse to deliver their babies.
Children collect their holiday presents but
Toss them on the interstate.
Our rulers detest their positions.
Kings sell their crowns at yard sales.
Geography teachers rend their world map
And throw it in the waste basket.
Grammar teachers hide vowel marks in the drop ceiling
And break caesura by striking the blackboard.
Flour sacks split themselves open, and the flour mixes with dirt.
Birds smash their wings and stop flying.
Mice swarm into the mouths of hungry cats.
Currency sells itself at public auctions.
The streets carry off their asphalt under their arms
And flee to the nearest desert.
Time forgets to strike the hour.
The sea becomes furious at the wave
And leaves the fish stuck headfirst in the mud.
The shivering moon hides its body in the night’s cloak.
Rainstorms congeal in the womb of the clouds.
The July sun hides in holes in the ozone layer,
Allowing ice to form on its beard and scalp.
Skyscrapers beat their heads against the walls,
Terrified by the calamity.
Cities dwindle in size till they enter the needle’s eye.
Mountains tumble against each other.
My room squeezes in upon me, and
The ceiling conspires against me with
Glass in the frame,
My clothes, and
The world’s clarity is roiled.
Atomic units change.
I vanish into seclusion,
Trailing behind me tattered moans and
Allowing my pen to slay itself on the white paper.
The Futility of Protesting Near Bustling Cemeteries
(For the Most Important Person in My Life, My Son Ahmad)
Take my spirit for your shirt
And use my heart’s arteries for shoelaces.
My spirit patched with raw dreams,
My soft body blemished by war’s scars,
My heart crushed and crunched like
Leaves under foot—
These are the sole signs of my existence
In a room that awaits a hurricane
That dreams of unleashing its gales.
Let me say tonight,
That I can’t do anything more.
Happens all the time.
What doesn’t happen,
But we always paint a comely face
On life’s hideous visage.
Translated by William M. Hutchins