I am the hostage woman
Predecessors claim me; so do successors
I snatch myself from the mouth of the two voids
I dream of the end of the universe,
Perhaps human glory witnesses the end
Waits long until civilizations
Lovers and peoples expire,
Or maybe migrate,
And earth remains for me,
For me to be Eve the wonderful.
But I woke up,
And found that spears surround me.
It was a dream, O judges.
Your honors the judges
Autumn tears up its crust
Frightened of emptiness and solitude
Wandering alone in sand streets
Absorbed in its thoughts
But soon returns captivated
By love for the homeland.
Flares its fires and sows its cinders.
But who harvests it,
While in its depths there are empires
And armies dismantled
Despite their burnished buttons?
The armies who encamp in the liver’s kingdoms
Or lunge after the bowels with their penetrating ammunition
Pull their day from the Souks
So that the sap of the self goes not
Inside the fall forests
In the body’s anterior temple.
These are my rivers
Driving their water production
To the mouth of the ocean.
The tax that you imposed is forcibly taken.
I thrust it to the inside of its coffers
Where its gold and memories are hoarded
Where empires sleep
With eyes filled with tears.
They recline on its rungs
Or stretch on its sands.
It deals with the body and the soul
As though old customers
But when hungry devours them.
The words of justice between your teeth
Are not for masticating.
Spit them out, here, in the palm of my hand,
For me to embrace them,
I push them in front of the mouths,
I bathe in them.
To what use is that water
That turns inside me
If it is not heading towards the great oceans
Where tears of the wretched heave?
Then welcome, O eternal roaring
O rising scream.
For me to split that obscure roar
I carry the burden of my death.
They counsel me to accept it,
And beguile me into surrendering to it.
The wind tears off a limb from my body,
I rush after it, and recover it.
Thus wars raged on the entrances of the body
Where a man of copper stands
Arresting what escapes from the self.
You advised me pain and vagrancy,
Bearing of wounds,
And I bore them until my bones bended
You advised me speed,
They say that the big universe traverses
But what has it got to do with my heart?
I will make a tunnel of love
Maybe I will get ahead of the thieves and tyrants and killers
From whose spittle is the ink of sacred History…
With it are recorded cold longings
And dead ideas,
And memory’s depth.
Where do we drop off the load, O sirs?
Here in front of your tribunes?
Or in the open air?...
Where lightning grants me its fire
So I expand through it
And the lake is its mirror
So I reach myself,
I reach the head’s dark rooms
And where thunder opens my ears for prophecies?
Translated from the Arabic by Gaelle Raphael
Saniyya Salih was born in Misyaf, Syria in 1935. She won numerous awards early in her life and published several collections of poems including Narrow Time (1964), The Ink of Execution (1970), and Poems (1980). She died in 1985 following a battle with cancer. She was married to the Syrian poet Muhammad al-Maghut.