Three Poems

Salaiman Juhni

We Change

I was born in sector 28 and raised in sector 31.
I have a few friends who nurtured their obsessions in a book.
They believed, just like me, that a band of Viking pirates sailed to the River of the Arabs.
Then they wore masks belonging to Indian vagabonds and walked all the way to Baghdad.
I tell my children: I was urinating on the school’s fence when I was kidnapped and brought back to Copenhagen. 
Now, when I ride my bicycle alongside my children, I advise them:
Do not urinate on the fence of your school,
A band of Sumerians might want to kidnap you and take you back to sector 28.

We Shall Help Nietzsche

You suggest the language
But I suggest the meaning
Open your life
The way I opened mine
Let things,
Your breasts,
Your belly,
And your tribe fall down
Let it roll beneath the chairs like an open bag of potatoes in the middle of the road.
Be a monkey like me
Dream the dreams of luxurious pigs
That sit all night long and stare at the hollow men
Who walk every day in the wasteland
Help Nietzsche like I helped him
Put on his fine dress
So he can go to the swamp
Lend him your handbag
So he can gather the things that drop off of him
His belly, guts, heart, and the scissors that the surgeon left behind.
Spit with Nietzsche at the waste of life
The teeth of life rot in the same way the body of a Kurd decomposes on a mountain top
Lend him your glasses as I did
So he is not tripped by the peel of morals
The morals that are inside the human
The human who is inside the morals
I lay my body on your body, which is also inside morals
The morals       the wall
Especially when we sit, you and I together
Sadly watching Norrie Assayed dangling from a poll like a light bulb
Your foot in my foot
Your hand in my hand
And your heart in my heart
You tremble now because of the weight of the truth
And you think that another person
Drags your body to the edge of the world
And dumps you in a hole
The hole of the human
Who has no morals
Who has not been ruined by family
Or war
Or the workers who go to the factory
To help bury the hole
The hole in my head
Help Nietzsche
So he can get out of it whole.


I am from the Middle East, but I live in Europe. When the bombs explode in Baghdad, their shrapnel often reach my body. I have fallen into a pool of my own blood many times; I fall in the public square as if I had been hit by the idea of war. The Chinese paramedic, who has been living in Denmark for twenty years, follows the steps of his ancestors while treating me. “There is a needle in my imagination”; that is what he said to me; then he drives his little nails into me as if I were Christ.

The story has not ended yet, for I have strange habits too. The last time I dug into my hand I found a horn, and as soon as I blew it, the philosophers stepped out into the streets and started to mumble in strange languages before their little statues. “Though I do not recognize their language, I understand what they say,” that is what my girlfriend said.

There is a poem in my head dated 1935. It is like a secret about a goddess who disguised herself as a clown and entered the circus. After the end of the show the audience applauded, and they continue to applaud until this day.
I say to my children: Here I take off my shoes and enter the family portrait.
I say to my doubles: I’m a sleeping city.

translated from the Arabic by Ali Kadhim and Chris George