Sargon Boulus

Translated by Sinan Antoon

Eve’s House

Sargon Boulus When I am lost
her eyes
guide me
from below
The silence
in her house
is deeper
than a forest
The world
around us
is a sea
(Humans have not been created)
There is a nocturnal bird
in the garden
Its monotonous singing
accompanies our descent
from one abyss
to the next

A Note From a Traveler

When I saw
death performing its ablutions in the fountain
People around me crossing the streets in their sleep
It seemed that my dreams were
pyramids of sand
crumbling before my eyes
I saw my day fleeing
in the opposite direction
far away from that cursed city. . .

We choose the beginning
But the end chooses us
And there is no road
except the road


The musician is in his corner
Gently embracing his oud, as if listening
to a pregnant belly
His fingers torture the strings
The dancer’s body is utterly seized
under the lights
Bending in the fourth dimension
Where no tickets are sold

We, the spectators, stay here with our chairs
The stage is empty

An Elegy for Sindibad Cinema

There is a road
Adorned with ceilings
Washed by memory
until they are white
Under a sky at the apex of its agony
Where I walk
Where my words want to rise like the stairs of a castle
Like sounds ascending the lost scale
One note after another
In my friend’s notebook
The oud player who died of his own silence in the desolation of exile
I find that sound
I find the building and open a door to it:
Our time; how it lost its tickets!
It is flowing in the dark
Like a tiny stream of voices
The voices of those who no longer have a voice
They told me
that they had demolished Sindibad Cinema
What a loss!
Who will sail now?
Who will meet the old man at sea?
They demolished those evenings
Our white shirts, Baghdad summers
Spartacus, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Samson and Delila
How will we dream of travelling now?
And to which island?
They demolished Sindibad Cinema
Heavy with water
is the hair of the drowned man
Who returned to the party
After they turned off the lights
Piled the chairs on the barren riverbank
and chained the waves of the Tigris

* * *

The Iraqi poet Sargon Boulus (1944-22 October, 2007), one of the pioneers of modern Arabic poetry, died five years ago in a hospital in Berlin. We celebrate his legacy with these translations of four of his poems. You can read more about his life and works

[Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. The first three poems are from Sargon Boulus, Hamil al-Fanus fi Laylal-Dhi’ab (The Lamp Carrier in the Wolves’ Night) (Cologne: Dar al-Jamal, 1996) pp. 71, 84, and 85. “An Elegy for Sindibad Cinema” (Martiya ila Sinama al-Sindibad) is from Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila(Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2008) pp. 173-174]

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