Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Riad Saleh Hussein: Smoke

Depressed and open like the sea,
I stand, angry, coherent and continuous,
to tell you about the sea,
when the window has two eyes to see my despair, the walls fingers to touch my ribs
the doors tongues to talk about me.

And when the water becomes the taste of water
the air the taste of air
and this black ink the smell of ink
and when print houses produce poems instead of sleeping pills and the fields grow wheat instead of opium

and the factories make shirts instead of bombs I’ll stand.
I’ll stand to talk to you about myself, to talk about love that assassinates elegies,
about elegies that open the royal book of record to list your names among the dead,
about the dead and the first aid worker
who did not arrive with the Mercurochrome to save them.

I’ll stand
to talk about myself
in the same way the dictator stands to talk about his prisons, the millionaire about his millions,
the lover about the breast of his beloved
the child about his mother
the thief about his keys
the world about its rulers.

I’ll talk to you with love, with love, with mad love, but only after I light a cigarette.

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Translated by Saleh Razzouk and Philip Terman


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Riad Saleh Hussein (1954-1982) was a Syrian poet who published four collections of poetry in his lifetime.

Translation copyright 2018 Saleh Razzouk and Philip Terman. An earlier version of this translation was published in Crazy Horse. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the translators.

One comment on “Riad Saleh Hussein: Smoke

  1. Frederick Tarr
    September 3, 2018

    Glad to see this very fine poem by Riad Selah Hussein.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2018 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, War and Peace and tagged , , , , , .

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