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About this poet

Dunya Mikhail is the author of several books, including The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014); Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea (New Directions, 2009), winner of the 2010 Arab American Book Award for Poetry; and The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005). Her honors include the Kresge Artist Fellowship and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She currently lives in Michigan, where she works as an Arabic lecturer at Oakland University.

The Iraqi Nights

In Iraq,

after a thousand and one nights,

someone will talk to someone else.

Markets will open

for regular customers.

Small feet will tickle

the giant feet of the Tigris.

Gulls will spread their wings

and no one will fire at them.

Women will walk the streets

without looking back in fear.

Men will give their real names

without putting their lives at risk.

Children will go to school

and come home again.

Chickens in the villages

won’t peck at human flesh

on the grass.

Disputes will take place

without any explosives.

A cloud will pass over cars

heading to work as usual.

A hand will wave

to someone leaving

or returning.

The sunrise will be the same

for those who wake

and those who never will.

And every moment

something ordinary

will happen

under the sun.

Copyright © 2014 by Dunya Mikhail. From The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014), translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Copyright © 2014 by Dunya Mikhail. From The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014), translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Dunya Mikhail

Dunya Mikhail is the author of several books, including The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014), Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea (New Directions, 2009), and The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005).

 

by this poet

poem

Through your eye
history enters
and punctured helmets pour out.

Frequent tremors occur in your land
as if invisible hands shake your trees day and night.

They blockaded you and banished the oxygen from your water,
leaving the hydrogen atoms to quarrel with one another.

Shouldn'

poem
The martyr couldn't believe his eyes
when his tomb was bombed
as he braided a garland for his beloved—
a red garland,
yet...on the way to heaven ...
it turned white.
He bent toward the water with a small rainbow clutched in his hand.

In this way he makes music.
He lifts is hands to the clouds and braids her
poem

The digital map on the wall

displays the American wars

in colors:

Iraq in purple

Syria in yellow

Kuwait in blue

Afghanistan in red

Vietnam in green.

The war

on the map

is beautiful

smart

and colorful.

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