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1- A Portrait of R. S. H.
He runs, in his eyes a slain star
And a broken sky.
He runs, in his eyes a sea of neon
And an ocean of stratified darkness.
In his eyes—also—
A beautiful girl runs barefoot.
She was ripe and soft
Like snow and fountains
She was tasty like ears of wheat
That birds nibble
She was soft… very soft
Running barefoot across barren plain.
2- A Dream:
Who is living in the body
That is full of deer and oak trees
That is packed of common world miracles?
Who is bathing with her eye’s ocean
And getting wet with seagulls and happy hunters’ fingers?
Here I am checking on the library of my days
Opening the notebooks of the rivers
To explore the lines of the two palms:
The topography of the winds
And the glory of arid waves
Here I am going into particles in the climate of her kisses
Green names and open woods
Kingdoms open their doors for the Knights of Astonishment
For the sparrows who are exploding with pleasure and with songs.
3- A Song:
A farm for the faithful, your stretched hand must not be withdrawn
My lips are a language stained with misery…
Now you are stretching yourself on the bed of your neat body
My memory falls between the trees of your eyes
I am holding tight the braids of your hands
To open a window for a talk…
In a minute the absence snatches you
Or becomes a prey for songs!
O country armored with moon, desire and trees
Has your time arrived?
O country packed with ruins and hard currency,
packed with corpses and beggars
Is your time up and you have to leave?
5- A Dialogue:
I said: the river has wings,
Our boats the winds have stolen.
The shore of virginity had been lost in the suitcases of land pirates.
Where can I go,
Dirty and naked,
Like a moon on a mid-summer night?
I said: wash up with my voice’s water.
Wear my kisses.
I said: the locomotive
Of the villages are knives cutting my veins.
The stony cities are bored because of me.
And here I am frozen between two
– A step and knives –
– A step and Chrysanthemums –
The sound turns into a whip
The shoe into a hat
And the gardens into hospitals
But love letters become time bombs…
Where should I begin?
You said: start from the alphabet’s massacre!
I fall in the lap of my beloved
Like a cold sun
A choked air
I fall in the lap of my beloved
A body haunted with hunger
Handcuffed with ink and shoes
I search in the lap of my beloved
For a wild song
And preying tune.
– And now
Do you like to dance, o my love?!
Sharp like a razor
Strong like a steel bayonet penetrating the heart
Vast like an ocean
Beautiful like happiness
Shinning like a laugh
My beloved who is full of feasts
Is delicious like a bread loaf
Tasty like an orange
I have nothing except these words
And some miserable memories
Those engraved wildly on the pier of my body.
Translation copyright 2020 Saleh Razzouk and Philip Terman. The original version of these poems was published by the Ministry of Culture in Damascus, Syria.
Riad Saleh Hussein (1954-1982) was a Syrian poet from the Aleppo province. He was mute, worked in Cinema Life Magazine in Damascus, and later for the Tishreen Daily until his death after a brief arrest for unspecified reasons. He published three collections of poetry; the fourth appeared after his death. A complete edition of his works was published in Baghdad and Milano, edited by Emad Najjar in 2016. He was considered a pioneer of prose poetry in which you can detect elements from Yves Bonnefoy and Jacques Prevert. He is a symbol of the Beat Generation who continued to revolutionize prose poetry in Arabic in the post-Adonis era. A selection of his poems, Tango Below a Narrow Ceiling, translated by Saleh Razzouk with Philip Terman, will be published by Bitter Oleander Press in 2021.
Saleh Razzouk was born in the Aleppo province, Syrai. He was educated at Aleppo University, Gliwice Polytechnic of Poland, and several universities across U.K. He is a fiction writer and the translator of a study on an Arabic novel by Win-Chin Ouyang in collaboration with Hamza Ulaiwy (Iraq). He, also translated ” The Night Tiger” a full length novel by Yangsze Choo. He was an associate professor at The University of Aleppo, Faculty of Agriculture, Fiber Science section until 2019. He temporarily lives in United Arab Emirates for reasons of safety.
Philip Terman is the author of several collections of poetry, including, most recently, This Crazy Devotion (Broadstone Books, 2020) and Our Portion: New and Selected Poems. (Autumn House Press, 2015). Poems and essays have been published in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry Magazine, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry and Extraordinary Rendition: (American) Writers on Palestine. He has a volume in Arabic translation published by Ninawa press, Damascus (2016). He teaches at Clarion University.