Jul 3, 2013

O Stones, Listen to the Music

Riyadh Alsalih Alhussain
Translated by Mona Kareem

[Riyadh Alsalih Alhussain (1954-1982) was born in the Syrian city of Dara’a on March 1954 to a poor family. Growing up as a deaf-mute, he struggled with his education and decided to quit school. He worked as a journalist from 1976 until his death in Damascus in 1982. He published three poetry collections and this poem is from his third collection “Simple as Water, Clear as a Bullet.” (Basitun kal-Ma’, Wadihun Katalqat al-Musaddas)]

The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow is neither a tie nor a pair of fancy shoes,
The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow is neither a crossword puzzle nor the Havana Conference.
The beginning is tomorrow
And tomorrow, under the guillotine or in chains,
I will call for the new life;
For the life they talk about in books,
The life we see in TV ads,
The life that sleeps on the sidewalks
Is not the life we want.

I will not talk about the passions of Christ,
As the carpenters of crosses expect.
I will not play with children
So the UNICEF won’t rebuke me.
Because tomorrow,
In stark simplicity and desperation,
I will stretch my heart forward and demand only:
Work, bread, books, security, travel etc..

I am not a junk seller,
Nor a Marlboro’s smuggler;
I do not own a gun to commit suicide,
A bomb to hijack a plane,
I did not sell my heart in an auction,
I did not buy whiskey from a duty-free market,
I did not kill a man,
I did not slap a woman with a flower,
Why then… why?
O trees that do not love music,
Why every time the grave-diggers see me,
They rub their hands in joy,
And ask me to visit them?

Since stone knives
To tube babies,
I have been looking for freedom..
I sleep and sing,
Work and squeeze napkins,
Wait and peel onions,
And in the morning or in the evening,
At seven or twenty four,
I enter the room and sit down,
I: white heart and blue hands.

We, the children of tomorrow,
Still sleep in cemeteries;
The cemeteries
Between lemon trees and snipers’ rifles.
We, the children of tomorrow,
Still stand under the small sky,
And near this poor world,
(Yesterday, today, and tomorrow)
Stretching our hearts to passersby:
- A song, friends
A kiss, brothers
A song and a kiss for God;
A kiss for the first day of the year,
A song for the last day!

Do not run away from me
To depressing streets,
I opened the door for you;
Come, get in, kiss me,
Talk to me, Sleep with me;
They are waiting for you at the street corner,
With a loaded gun.

The end is tomorrow:
Yesterday we met,
Today I kissed you,
And tomorrow we will part.
The beginning is tomorrow:
Yesterday the massacre happened,
Today they buried the dead,
And tomorrow a new massacre will happen.

Tomorrow, an old friend:
(Thousands are dying in Santiago’s prisons.)
Tomorrow, an old astronomer:
(Pisces will go to hell.)
Tomorrow, a tall peasant woman:
(Rain is scarce this year.)
A letter from an anonymous woman:
(I want to talk to you throughout the month of September.)

Hot as an ember,
Simple as water,
Clear as a bullet,
And I want to live,
Isn’t this enough?
O stones that do not love music.

* Published in Jadaliyya

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