Monday, December 28, 2020

‘Ice and Fire’, by Muḥammad al-Mâġûṭ

From Joy Is Not My Profession:
Take a cigarette and describe the war to me.
Take a loaf of bread and describe my feet to me.
Tears streaming on my shoulder,
I’ll describe to you the caravans of wind and bullets.
I’m as innocent as the partridge, as deceptive as al-Jazzar,
but thirsty—
I may collapse at any moment!
I smile,
though my back is hunched with crying.

Royal dustheaps,
clear off my sad notebooks
and listen:
bread sickens me like poison;
water, like the plague;
yet I am thirsty, and my spirit burns...
and my spirit growas crooked as a faucet.

O God—Rose of ice and dust—
the hunger in our mouths, the breasts on our chests
are neglected, forgotten.
Prostitutes sicken me like tuberculosis;
virgins, like the plague;
yet I crouch for hours
under the rain, behind the chimneys
to watch a man approach his wife
or a girl scratching her side before the mirror.

Sometimes I think of victory, and of defeat—
of great heroes
hitching up their pants behind the fences,
yawning in bathrooms.
What is the difference between a flower on the dinner table
and one on the grave?
Between bread and tin foil,
a breast and a hammer?
Or between the man who dies heading an expedition
and one who dies in mid-yawn
    as he defecates in the ruins?

My God: the cherry branches grow tall
and send their plundered blood off on freight cars,
and the goats’ green eyes stream in the moonlight.
A summer here and a winter there
and blood-stained birds
huddle together over the corpses, with their red claws,
and we still don’t know what to do!
Should we love, or should we go to sleep?
Or do we fix the mirrors over the haunts of the heroes?