Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Riad Saleh Hussein: Like a Star in the Sky, Like a Buck in the Jungle

In front of me too many things to offer

And behind me too many things for the graves

In front of me the river, the aroma of the mornings and the songs

The astounding humans, the travels and the justice

And behind me far too many

Precincts, statues and massacres.

Here I am walking and walking

Between my little defeats and great victories

And here I am walking and walking

glowing like a star in the sky 

Free like a buck in the jungle

I have land I love and good-hearted friends

Trousers, shoes, books, desires

And little time for dancing, going mad, and playing with a bomb.

I started to learn how to smile and how to say goodbye

And started to learn how to feel the pains

Far from noise and storms.

But the beautiful word, beautiful

Resembling a white bird

And resembling a desert tree,

I had discovered a little late

Like a ship discovering its direction

And like a child discovering his fingers and eyes.

And so I am walking and walking

Still in front of me—too much to offer

And behind— too much for the graveyards 

And so I am walking, walking. Walking

Not expecting an end of my road.

Here is a rock and two eyes

Here is a moon, there is a goose

And still there are more things I could not see:

Mothers’ hands,

Flour bags

And schoolchildren 

I open my eyes –little wells  

I move swiftly like shepherds

I started to know

– Maybe a little late –

That thousands of wars and millions of crimes

Could not stop a cat from mewing when it gets hungry,

The rose from opening

And the heavy rain from falling…

For so I am walking, walking and walking

Shining like a star in the sky

And free like a buck in the jungle.

And whenever I reach home

I confess to myself of my little mistakes

And wait for:

The wild grass

The train’s roar

The factory’s workers

And the color of the sky in early

Early

Early morning.


Riad Saleh Hussein

Translation copyright 2020 Saleh Razzouk and Philip Terman. The original version of this poem was published by the Ministry of Culture in Damascus, Syria.

Bios of Poet and Translators

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.

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