Two Poems

Ḥusayn Mardān

The Revolver Above the Dead Sea

My mouth sinks into the fireplace
My tongue is a piece of ice
Alone with the battleground and the banner
And when the night strikes my sad
face . . .
I disappear inside a book about bitter fruit
and the bones of mammoths
Inside my chest, the screams of steamships
rise up
And in front of me is a green orange
Meanwhile the pipe comes nearer
to burn the blue curtains
So I go back to my mind’s chamber
to toss out onto the street
all the statues, pictures and poems
Then I kiss the hand of al-Khidr
Oh, that cat standing
behind the wall
He is my dark enemy
Let him be . . .
I aged beyond forty
and the candlestick is in the mausoleum
So descend, o tears
for my pillow is made of iron
And if I had but one toy
I would have laughed at the desert
All the angels I have created
no longer delight me

The grain is around the pot of clay
the rain in the cloud
And there is a porcupine and a bottle of wine
in my insides
I hate the song that goes
“The night has seven daughters”
For night is a yellow beast
No, I will not collect the spider’s thread
I will not love the eye that resembles
a candle
nor the open mouth of the sultan
Because I love the revolver that rings out
across the Dead Sea
Zionism is giving birth to dogs
So let the revolution raise its red whip
and let the rifle’s magazine break
Only then will the ice melt
and pictures and curtains be hung
And I will go to the sun
in the Sinai
and fall asleep at the edge of the spring
like a nightingale’s feather . . .

The Nightmare

Above the pale lamp
stood the black bird
The sea was behind the street
Terror invaded me
From which side does this voice
I stared at the night
into its veins swollen with darkness
Where was I before this moment
when I felt a breeze cold
like the edge of a blade
Come back, o ghost
An ambulance went by quickly
then vanished
and silence prevailed again all around
I know not the place that
I am walking to

And he said . . . O ghost
but I did not die
I moved another step forward
and it seemed my feet had the echo
of a drum
Is it not enough for you to die once?
Ghosts also die

Ah . . .
I saw the sparrow flutter
its wings
It was flying in the open air
and approaching my face
Was it . . .
It was carrying my face
Why do you want to know
the truth? Ha!
How blind you are
The street will come to an end and nothing is left
but the sea
Suddenly the lamp was extinguished
and a faint song became louder
Water spoke to the poet
asking for him
wishing for his withered body
and I tottered
That was my body cast
on the pavement
And the tumult broke out around me
Who brought it to
this land?
Raise it higher
It is intoxicated
I am drugged with love,
I screamed with tremendous rage
and crawled forward
The lamp had been lit
and the bird had vanished
Then I reached the sea

translated from the Arabic by Suneela Mubayi