Why I Am Silent About The Lament

Translated from Arabic by Threa Almontaser

مالي صمت عن الرثاء
Why I Am Silent About The Lament

They tell me my silence is about lamentation.
I tell them the howling is ugly.

يقولون لي مالي صمتّ عن الرّثاء
فقلت لهم ان العويل قبي

Poetry is only for life and I
felt like singing, not howling.

وما الشعر الاّ للحياة وانّي
شعرتُ اغنّي ما شعرت انوح

How do I call the dead now that between us are hushed
dirt and grave? I am surrounded by mute soil and a mausoleum.

وكيف انادي ميّتاً حال بينه
وبيني ترابٌ صامت وضريح

Howling is only for widows and I am not
like a widow who wails on the silent casket.

وما النّواحُ الاٍ للثٍكالى ولم أكن
كثكلى على صمت النعوش تصيح



Yemen Rising as Poorest Country in The World 

Ruling Yemen is like dancing on the heads of snakes.
—Ex-president Ali Abdullah Salih

This country like a pan of maa’tuf crisped
too dark. This country at the edge like a scrunched

fist. This country a trading port, a locust flying full speed,
a jinn queen, a pleasant resonant, a goggle of glimmering

noses. This country who invites the whole village
over for tea is a blue diwan, a spice road, an Arabia Felix.

Yemen of wadded cheeks, feral cat and snake fights.
A hen walking into your kitchen, kids outside chasing

the cock who chases fajr. This country like tied t-shirts
for a fútbol, confetti of qat tumbling from a cart,

school books in sugar bags. This country tows you in
like a water spirit whispering your deepest wants.

This country of spiffed grandmothers in gaudy galabeyat
dancing in the streets to their own heartdrums, tossing henna

globs like a fifth grade food fight, celebration and orange
staining their skin. This country is a canal between al nas

and the divine. Its suit jackets draped over white thobes,
jambiya blades at the waist. Or rahman in a tucked foutah,

squatting at the knees to eat. This country is a dwindled
miswak, a line of red teeth chomping down the bark

of the kingdom. Don’t ask a Yemeni if they fear
the hereafter. They’ll always answer no. Ask

if they ever spent countless nights banging
on a rusty cell for buying batat at the wrong time

(because even the grocer is an undercover rebel).
Or if they’ve carried jerrycans of water, the aid camp

miles away. The water here is weaponized. The water here
is full of parasites and pirates. If you swim too long,

either one can steal you. The politicians that dug themselves
into our gospeled fields were bad seeds. They sprouted only

the poisonous parts, left the best of Allah somewhere else.
It takes a crow seven hundred years to reach an angel’s

shoulder from his earlobe. There’s too much space
between us and faith–—a far off star kept burning

by the fuel of a malak’s holy feathers. National Unity Day
of Yemen was yesterday. I lit a sparkler that looked like

the tapeworms I found on my cat’s ass, white electric,
wriggling where I waved it. Baladi is twins wrestling

for peace in the womb, the two linked through blue cord
and brain folds. The north came out hot as lightning

and just as striking, the south’s head a beautiful gleaming
coffeeberry. They try to reach the other’s border, calling out

their birth names through the divide. Do you get it? اسمعني.
The prophet (s) once said the people of Yemen have

the softest hearts of all. I’ve been trying
to ensnare you in your own guilty conscience.

I never aimed for liquid speech. I should have been

more rhetorical. Maybe someday I’ll push
the language of poor through my teeth and master it.

What Heavens

Translated from the Persian by Siavash Saadlou


“Yeah, it’s an Arab woman thing.”