from Friendly Harbor, Hostile Ship

Bachtyar Ali

Friendly Harbor, Hostile Ship

We will dock by you, friendly harbor,
and the sad enemy ships too.
We knew the songs of darkness; our midnights were full
of the lanterns of your drunken guards. We came to be your refugees.
We all escaped from enemies,
we and our enemies too.
We meet the enemy on your streets
and we know they fled from our arrows.
The enemy sees us and understands
we are strangers and homeless, escaped from their swords.

No one can be a refugee in water . . . no one.

We all came to you, distant harbor, to hide from each other,
to conceal ourselves from our ships
which call us and want to know where we went.
We are all eternal refugees in this brightness
on earth.
We are eternal runaways toward light.
Recognize us. You who unload our hopeless burdens,
recognize us, and know with what longing we search for the end.
Receive us. Shelter us
and see how our ships fire at each other.

Open your giant doors so that our enemies and we
can sit with gratitude.
Look, we all came from dark places and dark seas.
We all escaped from mad waves, black storms,
and hostile ships.

I Do Not Remember This City

I do not remember the bird that lured me to this city,
nor the guard who called to me over the walls;
I do not remember what chain, what bond, so golden and elegant, made me adore this prison. I do not remember the road to this city. I came to die under the shadow of a tree, but now I do not remember the name of any tree. I came to die near the smell of a rose, but today I cannot imagine the scent of any rose and I do not remember the color of any bud.

Tell me, passing traveler, fleeting like the wind, gloomy like the sky,
is it only I who do not remember why he has come to this city,
or did you also forget who we are and what we are?

I do not remember what white empire ruled here, full of black trees with pigeons dark like tar, of fish brimming with the water’s sympathy. I do not remember what gust stole seeds from dusky fields and how I became a gardener bringing death to nightingales.
I do not remember why I became a farmer, why I plough emptiness, sow dryness.

I do not remember the first door I knocked,
the inn room where I slept,
the wayfarer’s burden I rested on,
the nightingale whose song enchanted me, nor the peddler’s elixir that made me sleep.

I do not remember why I fought in revolutions, why I shot traitors . . . I do not remember why I wrote books, why I grew elaborate gardens, why I planted fire with my bare hands, why poison inebriated me? I do not remember why I became the king of poetry, why I hunted verses, why I loved these roads, why I prayed here, why I gathered wind, why I took wine from dark cellars, why I deceived my heart, why I stayed, why I did not forsake this city?

translated from the Kurdish-Sorani by Dilan Qadir