VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Hussein Habasch

Translated by Azad Akkash

Every day!

Every day

I pass by the madhouse.

From the third-floor’s window,

A woman shows up.

She cries: Help, I need help!

I say to her: I need that also!

She raises a wry laugh

And asks me: Are you mad like me?

In all seriousness, I answer: Yes, sure.

She shakes her head and says:

Then we will prevail!

To her, I raise the sign of victory

That is going to be lost anyway, And I move on.

As a Kurd Would Love His Stubborness!

I love these rugged mountains and these slender rivers 

with wobbly knees pouring into their charnel house.

I love these stones that defy sunrays in the midsummer heat

and the frosty cold in midwinter chills.

I love this soil that resembles my body

and this land that foremost means the heart.

I love this dust, a coal for my eyes it is,

and this air, a balm for my lungs it is.

I love this skimpy terebinth and the fragrant hawthorn.

I love cacti and its thorns, olives and its yearnings.

I love this thin reed that serenades all the time on the riverbank,

this dark swamp where frogs continuously croak.

I love the daisy flower that resembles the whiteness of my heart,

and these tulips that fraternize with my blood.

I love these mud houses

and these tents, fluttering on the outskirts of forgotten villages.

I love this generous vine, the bequeather of grapes and wine.

I love these yellow grain spikes, the bequeather of food and bread.

I love these swaggering kite birds,

and these cicadas, continuously singing.

I love my land from top to bottom and from bottom to top,

just as a Kurd would love his stubbornness!

Tomorrow, You Will Be an Old Man

(For me, in a quarter of a century, more or less)

Translated by Sinan Anton

Tomorrow, you will be an old man

The cane, always with you

You will walk alone

You will mutter to yourself like all old geezers do

You will become obstinate, hard of hearing, and slow

You will ask for help when you need it

But no one will respond

You will dream of the past

And the good old days

While your grandson will think of the future

And days to come

You will curse this vapid generation

Repeating itself like a broken record

How wonderful our generation was!

You will be the butt of jokes in the family

They will laugh at you and your positions

Which you think are right on

Your lips will let out a sarcastic smile

Whenever they mention words like “stubbornness”,

“Vigor”, and “faith in the future”

You might even laugh

Your bones will soften

Illnesses will roam freely in your body

Without permission

All your desires will be extinguished,

Except the desire to die

There will be no friend or a companion

Loneliness will be your support and comrade

I Don’t Care How or Where I Die

Translated by Solara Sabah

I rest my head on the rock of the oblivion.

Like a chorus, I echo the saddest song as follows:

I don’t care if I die poor or poorer than the poorest people of the world.

My two children are eating apples and chewing on pomegranate seeds.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I die.

Then I will wake up, walking alone in my funeral.

I don’t care if I never wake up.

My two children are whispering to each other with joy and happiness

as if they were two lovers.

This is most important!

Sargon Boulus had passed away in Berlin alone

as he was always alone;

reeled in to the brink of death as if he was a drunken Angel.

He was sick.

As a forgotten Prince,

Kamal Sabti died in a sofa in his home in Holland.

Ageel Ali had passed away on a sidewalk

as if he was formed to be the crown of all the homeless.

Mahmoud al-Braikan was killed with the knife of a thief.

He was a lighthouse, guiding the pirates to his penniless pockets.

Then why should I care if I die in a bar, ballroom,

cabaret or in the arms of a whore in a brothel?

My two children are eating French fries with mayonnaise.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I die by drowning, burning, strangulation, 

slaughter or by committing suicide with carbon monoxide,

like my sister Sylvia Plath.

I don’t care if I am put to death on my birthday,

like my brother Dilshad Meriwani, the strange angel of Kurdistan.

I don’t care if I die hungry, imprisoned or under the wheels 

of a reckless train, like my spiritual twin Attila József.

I don’t care if I am murdered in the hands of a mob,

like Lorca, or hanged like Hasan Mutlak, “Dabada” of Baghdad.

More importantly, my two children are okay!

And I write simple farewell love poems,

inspired by the flirtation of the waitresses

and the beautiful young girls, passing in front of the café.

My two children are playing.

My daughter is combing her Barbie’s hair,

and my son is riding his tiny motorbike.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I am stabbed with a treacherous knife

or given a dose of venom, like my uncle Socrates.

I don’t care if my death occurs in Athens, Berlin, Beirut, 

Damascus, London, Madrid or beautiful Washington!

Cities are similar.

Death is a wandering dog, prowling along the skylines.

My children are rolling a ball-like planet,

and they seem fascinated by it.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I die homeless in exile, achy, sad or drunk

or stabbed by friends’ tusks, like most poets.

It is important that in this moment

I’m listening to Maria Callas.

Deep down, my inner self is soaked in her melodious voice!

And my two children are sleeping innocently, it’s amazing.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I stutter with a drool

or sail through the madness swirl,

like my companion Cioran,

roaming the night due to insomnia,

putting my fate in the hands of coldness and delirium.

My two children are smiling in their sleep,

dreaming, perhaps about birds or butterflies.

This is most important!

I don’t care if I live or die!

It makes no difference!

Death is the departure of the soul.

I lost my soul a long time ago in the forests of the oblivion.

Why should I care now?

I don’t care!

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