Three Poems by Riyad al-Saleh al-Hussein: ‘Simple Like Water, Clear Like a Bullet’

 
 
ثورة صغيرة
بعد قليل
سأقوم بثورة صغيرة
في هذه الغرفة السوداء
أمزِّق الكتب والأحزان والصور القديمة
وأضع الكرسي مكان المدفأة
بعد قليل… بعد قليل
سأفكِّر بالزهور ويعاسيب الغابات
والخيول المرتعشة خلف القضبان
بعد قليل
سأقوم بثورة صغيرة
أضع رأسي فوق الوسادة
أغمض عينيَّ على حلم متوحِّش
أمدّ يدي إلى قلبي
وأغنِّي لروزا لوكسمبورغ. His fourth collection of poetry, A Bull in a Jungle, was published one year later. The handsome boy said something
not that pleasing
yet not distasteful:
“long live the duck
long live the river
long live the cat
long live the trees
long live my sister, my brother
and down with the tank” …


He closed his eyes with his own eyes
and slept, once and for all
 
 
الولد النائم
قبل أن يذهبَ للحرب مضى نحو السرير
أغلق عينيه ونام.. …. In one narrative found in an introduction to the complete collection of his poems (Almutawassit Books, 2016), Syrian poet and artist Munther al-Masri, a good friend of Riyad’s, alludes to the possibility of a death induced by heartbreak. The handsome boy cried:
I don’t want to see anything
I want my mother, my bottle, my blanket. Soon
I will start a small revolution
lay my head on the pillow
close my eyes to a savage dream
reach out to my heart
and sing to Rosa Luxemburg. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading…‹ International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces 2018 Longlist: Packed with Well-known WritersCategories: poetry, Syria And from the farthest sky
a bomb dropped over the handsome boy’s bed
the angel flew
the cat meowed, seeing the child’s finger sinking in the dirt
the handsome boy said:
That’s okay, that’s okay
Exhausted, he went back to bed
closed his eyes with his own eyes
and slept…
Saw in a dream
fish on the walls
a wolf swimming in a pool
a crocodile returning to the nightclub
and a woman waiting for God before the Palace of Justice. Decades after the death of Syrian poet Riyad al-Saleh al-Hussein, his words remain alive among readers:
By Ibtihal Mahmood
Thirty-five years after his death, at the age of 28, Riyad al-Saleh al-Hussein’s poems remain bold, invincible, and “simple like water, clear like a bullet” — with a breathtaking prophetic trait immersed in blue. The collection ends with a poem titled “Habit,” with a final line that reads, “I have grown accustomed to awaiting you, O Revolution.”
What a strange coincidence, as al-Masri puts it, that Riyad al-Saleh al-Hussein bid the world adieu with a “Revolution.” Twenty-nine years later, a Syrian Revolution reenthroned al-Hussein as an icon of the new wave of poetry, taking his poem “Syria” as its anthem:
O cruel Syria
like a scalpel in a surgeon’s hand
we are your good children
we had your bread, your olives, your scourges
#
A Small Revolution
translated by   Ibtihal Mahmood  
 
Soon
I will start a small revolution
in this black room
I will tear up books, sorrows, old photographs
and replace the furnace with a chair. رأى فيما يرى الحالم
أسماكًا على الجدران
ذئبًا يسبح في البركة
تمساحًا يعود للملهى
وامرأة تنتظر الربّ أمام قصر العدل
صاح الولد الجميل:
لا أريد أن أرى شيئًا
أريد أمي وزجاجة الحليب والقماط
قال الولد الجميل شيئًا
ليس حسنًا جدًا
وليس سيئًا جدًا:
“عاش البط
عاش النهر
عاشت الهرّة
عاشت الأشجار
عاشت أختي وأخي
ولتسقط الدبابة..”


أغلق عينيه بعينيه
ونام أبدًا
Ibtihal Mahmood is a Jordanian-American writer and translator based in Seattle, Washington. Out of these elements, three collections of poetry sprang forth in his brief lifetime (Failure of Circulation, 1979; Daily Legends, 1980; Simple Like Water, Clear Like a Bullet, 1982).  
Silence
translated by   Ibtihal Mahmood  
In the evening, the men arrived, spent, from the pasture
in the evening, the women arrived, spent, from the fields
the men’s hearts about to fall
the women’s eyes about to cry
in the evening, they came and danced until the morn. رأى فيما يرى الأولاد
سهلاً فسيحًا تركض الغزلان فيه
سربًا من عصافير
وأشجارًا من الدراق
أزهارًا لها هيئة أقمارٍ
رأى نهارًا واسعًا جدًا
ومن أقصى النهار جاء رجل يسعى
ألقى على الطفل قميصًا من دمٍ
فاختفى السهل وماتت الغزلان
والأشجار
اختفى النهار.. ومن أقصى السماء
جاءت القنبلة فوق سرير الولد الجميل
طار الملاك
وماءت الهرة حينما رأت إصبع طفل في التراب
قال الولد الجميل:
لا بأس، لا بأس
عاد إلى السرير متعبًا
أغمض عينيه بعينيه
ونام.. A boyhood in Der’a; an early poetic talent interrupted by kidney failure; a loss of hearing at the age of 13 caused by a medical error; end of formal schooling; a trip to Bulgaria to alleviate the effects of the butchered medical procedure; relocation to Aleppo – then to Damascus; love; death; and burial in Mare’, Aleppo. قال الولد الجميل: لا بأس
أغمض عينيه بعينيه
ونام
رأى عشرين ملاكًا يهبطون قربه
سألهم: هل تأكلون البرتقال
هل نستطيع أن نلعب لعبة الهرّة والفأر
أختبئ الآن فوق سريري
جديني أيتها الهرّة/الملاك.. The wound became a song
and fatigue, a flute.  
 
الصمت
مساءً جاء الرجال متعبين من المرعى
مساءً جاءت النساء متعبات من الحقول
للرجال قلوب موشكة على السقوط
وللنساء عيون موشكة على البكاء
في المساء جاؤوا ورقصوا حتى الصباح
الجرح صار أغنية
والتعب مزمارًا
غير أن رجلا ما
ظلَّ جالسًا في الزاوية البعيدة
البندقيَّة بين يديه كأفعى
والحياة في عينيه زمن من فخَّار…
الرجل الذي ينظر بصمت
لا يبدو أنَّهُ يشاهد التلفزيون
ولا يبدو أنَّهُ يحلم
ولا يبدو نائمًا
اللئيم…
ما الذي يفكِّر فيه؟
The Sleeping Boy
translated by   Ibtihal Mahmood  
Before he went to war, he marched toward the bed
closed his eyes and slept…
He saw in a boyish dream
a spacious plain with galloping deer
a flock of birds
peach trees
moonlike flowers
He saw a very spacious day
and deep into the day, a man came walking
threw a bloody shirt at the child
the plain vanished, the deer perished,
the trees followed
the day disappeared…
The handsome boy said: that’s okay. He closed his eyes with his own eyes
and slept
saw twenty angels perched near him
proposed: let us eat oranges
let us play cat and mouse
I will hide on top of my bed
now find me, dear cat/angel…
…. Al-Hussein’s short life and unexpected departure, his reticence, and his choice of a semi-secluded lifestyle all left a lot of room for speculation, especially regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Soon… Soon
I will think of flowers, wasps in the forest,
and of horses shivering behind bars. They rushed him to al-Muwasat Hospital in Damascus, where he passed away in the afternoon of November 20, 1982. The latter was published only five months prior to his death. But one man
kept his seat in the far corner
the gun in his hands like a snake
life, in his eyes, a time of clay…
The man watching silently
not watching television
not dreaming
not sleeping
that cur…
What is he thinking about? After growing concerns about his absence, al-Masri says, two of Riyad’s friends — Iraqi poets Mahdi Muhammad Ali and Hashem Shafiq — found him on the verge of death in his own room, curled up in his bed, shivering, hallucinating, and begging for a sip of water.