Away from Damascus

Omar Youssef Souleimane

The People of the In-Between


When the wind threw your dress off the clothesline
The building opposite shuddered
For he saw our house window naked

When the shell destroyed the building nobody trembled

We need to giggle
In order to conceal our rattles under the rubble

We need to dwell among websites
So we do not see the tons of vacuum around us

Every time we wake up we wonder:
When and how did we go to sleep?


We walk on electric wires in the gray morning
Our members are dispersed between two tongues
Between countries of exile and our exiled homeland
Between the teeth of darkness and the fruits of light
Between hell’s weddings and the black wheat

We are the people of the in-between
We consume conversations
Like a spoiled child takes a bite from each apple

We have incomplete poems
Incomplete death
And orderly chaos
Our flowers neither bloom nor wither—
We are the children of the digital age

Whenever we look at the sky
We only see with half a glance

Like a young crow balling on the grass
Like a dove devoured by hunger
Next to the crow a fountain surrounded by lion heads
Carved from imagination—
We only see half a life


Dew on wounds from a grenade defused by a child
Dew from the tears of hell
Loitering in this paradise that floats on the remains of the alphabet

The young man is in the garden of exile
And his vanishing country floats like a voice coming from a well

The heart of the exile is a black hole arching the lights of the world
A hole on the verge of the Big Bang

Do Not Tell Anyone


Do you remember our childhood fighting game?
What’s happened is that we’ve entered the screen
And God has taken our place


Between the wide front lines
The sniper lens stops
A victim falls apart in my heart


The father who spreads his hand
Is covering the sun
So it won’t get burned by the face of a dead child


As we cross the borders
Fleeing from live bullets
Do not tell anyone that we are alive

In the Foreign Land

We said goodbye to the war at the city gates,
And left bags of destruction with the guardian of nothingness.
Our clothes are stained with dawn
And tears of joy.
We crossed the bridges of loneliness,
And the shells of words are still in our pockets.
Beacons wave for us from the shores of injuries,
And the mountain feasts run in our arteries.

O friends of mud and light,
This city is for us alone;
For us as well are streets filled with nothing but the trace of our breaths on the snow.
We removed the walls of time and we crossed,
We swapped guns for the wheat of the East,
And the gold of the desert for the desert dew.

As if we went back to the house of first love,
We poured the wine of beginnings in our names,
And opened our hearts for the sea.
Here, in the foreign land,
There is nothing but the bareness of our being
And the windmills.

translated from the Arabic by Ghada Mourad