The Bell of the First Lesson, a Poem by Muwaffaq Muhammed, Translation by Hussain Alwan Hussain

Hussain Alwan Hussain
2012 / 1 / 30

The Bell of the First Lesson
(To the poet: Hamza Al-Hussaini)
By: Muwaffaq Muhammad
Translated by Dr Hussain Alwan Hussain

No one can be like you,
No one can retell the child glowing in you;
Glittering in your whiteness
As you melt in innocence to make poems flow,
Glowed by the ripe and sad fruits in your gardens,
Gardens full of thousands of bulbuls,
That fly off your pillow to waken you up at dawn,
Hiding their dreams in the mirrors at which the child lisps.
Did you know the names of all those bulbuls?
Did you know … when you waved your hands to them in ecstasy
Making them distribute their songs all over the earth?
The child lisping in the mirrors,
And the poems pecking at your hands.
No one can gather the four seasons in his two palms
And feed the orphans up to their heart-desires,
While they lean on a moon glowing with ears of seeds.
Did those bulbuls drink from the fig of your heart
That swings in the branches of the night?
Did you teach them the bliss as you did us?
Now they are chanting on your coffin,
Inviting other birds to join in consolation;
They are chanting one bulbul away from your heart,
Clad in black, sinking their songs.
So who can awaken you in your estrangement now?
The child lisps in the mirrors now: towns are strange,
And the graveyards are str…..
"I don t know, I ll ask Hamza, when he comes back."
He said: "I m leaving."
And the temperature glowed in his pain-sweating cheeks,
And his hands gathered together what was falling off him.
So who will awaken you in your estrangement?
And who will bring them to your hands
To caress and feed them the milk of your soul?
Or your fragile, green soul from whose branches rapture flows?
The ants enact their orchestra in the mirrors;
They had their nests built before
In your poems with peace and prosperity.
Can you hear their music – sorry, their weeping?
How can you hear the music,
When the rocket launchers drink the dawn
In unison with the bell of the first lesson?
The warblers stuff in the mirrors,
And the sun rises, flying the blood and flesh,
And we stay waiting for you;
Waiting for the rain that washes our charred faces,
Awaiting the cataracts of rapture
Gushing from a mountain that belonged to Hilla,
Whose name was Hamza Al-Salman.
Please come back to us,
And hold Iraq that has no country of its own but on your lean shoulders;
Hold Hilla upon your cheeks,
And illuminate for us the underworld that has fallen upon us,
Has swirled us in its wrath, howling by the pain-scrapers,
Filling our chests with the pain that fires from our graves.
So who is eulogizing who?
Who is it of us who is dead, and who is alive?
Does your pain lament me?
Or is it my waiting for life upon the embers of death that lament you?
Or is it your poems dropped by the carnivorous worms
In the flesh of the child squatting in the mirrors?
Or are they my poems whose cheeks are bleeding from lamenting the dead?
Or is the blackness firing in its candelabras able to lament you?
They walk on two crutches in your requiem party;
They have cut the tongue of the poem to terminate the warblers songs.
Oh, the tree of night:
Cool for us the ember;
For death is roaming everywhere,
Leading your worshipper on a flight,
From the needle s hole
To the needle s hole,
Rendering the journey briefer.
Oh, noble boy; get down your horse,
And let the child feed in the mirrors on board,
Watched by the birds, throbbing frightened in their nests,
Gazing in bloody eyes to and fro: between the sniper and his forehead.
Will you hold up your cup in toast for the wolf so keen to hunt?
"I Hold up! Cheers!"
For life is but the air blown by a goat,
And the children are suckling death in streets, schools, and houses.
Oh, the Almighty God!
You, the Owner of this Realm;
The Rescuer of Jonah from the bowels of the whale;
Help us!
Save us from this volcano erupting in the coffin!
How could your lean body accommodate the forlorn?
How could your heart envelop them all?
You used to reel to and fro for their grief,
Summing up all the grievances with a laugh,
A laugh that enchants the Old Bridge,
Who asks about the boys taking to swim hanging in His beard:
Are they dead, or are they still alive in the streets of death?
And you jump off from Him, diving
Like a sunbeam, to kiss the waves
That run a way from His shades.
And the River bears you up with his hands,
Flowing you to the lanes of Galadge,
To wet their naughty children.
And you dance for them,
And carry them off with your waves of spree.
Were you their twin brother?
I mean of the lanes of Galadge suburb?
For they are as lean as you, my Hamza.
Lo the pipe, dusted with lament,
And stored in the ages-old urns of grievance,
You are the mouth of my mother as she crawls the graveyards,
Sing for us what broils the widows, spinsters, and graves!
Where you their twin brother?
For they are as shady as you.
And here I am touching their walls,
Reading your poems that are entwined with its bricks.
Oh, You, who are fond of inventing love and yearning,
You ve left us when your patience and moderation is badly needful.
Oh, Hamza, we are frightened,
As we observe the angel of death escaping on his bike,
Turning his head back in terror,
Raising his white flag to the demons of vested bombers!
How did you gather all our pains, terrors, and grievances
In your lean body that had no shade?
You used to be afraid of treading on earth with your shade
Walking instead on the heads of your foot-toes
Lest one letter of its verses breaks off.
Lo Hamza, sorry we did not stretch our hands to the pain rocking inside you
To purge ourselves in its inferno, burning our spite and sin,
Saying goodbye to hatred;
Goodbye to the inflated egos,
For life is not worth living after you, Hamza.
You were worthy of it, par excellence,
Loftier than its petty privileges,
Mocking those keen on vanishing glory.
Striking with your bare hands its rocks
To gush out poetry from the fountains of childhood:
An enchanting, naughty child.

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