Three Poems

Safaa Al-Sarray. Translated by Sinan Antoon

Artwork: Sajjad Abbas, 2019

[Safaa al-Sarray (1993-2019) was an Iraqi revolutionary poet and artist. He was killed by Iraqi security forces during the 2019 uprising and became one of its icons and a national figure. These poems were chosen from his posthumous collection of poems.]

I am so sad
so hungry
for people
that I forgot the taste
of wild lilies
in my soul
I stood at the window of life
drunk on its dew
with my tongue
I drew a cottage
for what remained
of my pain
and a brook of dew

The color of night pains me
Night becomes night by separation
all of life’s worries came to visit me
as did the faces
of my boon companions
and the glass

But Iraq never came

Night becomes night by separation


O Lord!
god of shaky ceilings
of lost dreams
god of drunkards
and distant dark stations
O Lord!
by your failure and weakness
and your mercy
out of order since you kindly gifted my mother death
O Lord!
By your pride which we scarred
By your power over the poor
By your pride over paupers
O Lord!
By your gifts
which you bestow on the rich
who need nothing from you
O god of frail ceilings
Crush me
As you did before
As you usually do
So that I may stand over my destruction
Screaming to your face
O god of shaky ceilings
and drunkards
Create sadness for yourself
and be crushed
Like me


I confess
Now that I’ve come out innocent
of the universe’s womb
that I still am
were it not for desires
for all the sorrow on this silver body
and this birthmark between breasts

I confess
before your courts now
that I’m guilty of sorrow and lust
That my heart is a cemetery for butterflies
Whatever enters it emerges multiplied with worries
and sorrow
I never thought the night would be so long
to outlast my drunkenness

My crime
I was eloquent in love
as honest as a coffin
never deceiving anyone
And now I am clouds
never revealing what’s behind
even if it is a sun
longing tricks me
I read the unseen in lightning
with your scent in my chest
I cast away coughs
and scatter the sand
touched by birds in Maysan on my eyes
My longing is extreme
It has become the key
to locked boxes
Oh this grain of sand in my eye
those birthmarks on the forearm have grown
the bite is no longer a refuge

Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. From Diwan Ibn Thanwa: Safa’ al-Sarray (Takween, 2021).