The New Baghdad

She comes to me with a bowl of soup
when I am besieged by
ppppppppppp of cheap arak.
She comes to me in dusty noons.
And with each sunset night snatches
she comes to me with
ppppppppppp an evening star.

In the cafes she sits to bitter tea.
In the market she sells cheese
and buffalo livers.
She dusts her used-clothing stores,
searching for bones in a bowl of soup,
for milk to the lips of a child
and a glimmer in a pair of eyes
and something a woman does not yet know
and streets where water never greens.

At night
she roams among houses abandoned by the poor
and churches where a muffled mass fades
and huts where poor girls faint.
At midnight
she returns to her enchanted shelter
behind muddy streets,
carrying the bread of the dead,
myrtle flowers,
slivers of buffalo liver
and two bones for a bowl of soup.

At dawn she stops by all her houses,
waking all her children,
dragging them to the street,
the thousands waiting to march on Baghdad.


from WITHOUT AN ALPHABET, WITHOUT A FACE (Graywolf Press, 2002) Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa


Poems by Saadi Youssef

Solos on the Oud

The New Baghdad