Dunya Mikhail


Country: Iraq

The War Works Hard

How magnificent the war is
How eager
and efficient!
Early in the morning
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places
swings corpses through the air
rolls stretchers to the wounded
summons rain
from the eyes of mothers
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins
some are lifeless and glistening
others are pale and still throbbing
it produces the most questions
in the minds of children
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters
urges families to emigrate
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(while the poor remain
with one hand in the searing fire).
The war continues working, day and night
it inspires tyrants to deliver long speeches
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets
it contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs
provides food for flies
adds pages to the history books
achieves equality
between killer
and killed
teaches lover to write letters
accustoms young women to waiting
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures
builds new houses
for the orphans
invigorates the coffin makers
and gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
paints a smile on the leader’s face.
It works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.

Translated by Liz Winslow

Nothing Here Is Enough

I need a parrot
identical days
a quantity of needles
and spoiled ink to make history.

I need veiled eyelids
black lines
and ruined puppets
to make geography.

I need a sky wider than longing
and water that is not H2O
to make wings.

The days are no longer enough
to distinguish the missing
I no longer see you
because I no longer dream.
I propose a tear to the rain
as if scattering you
in the Dead Sea
and in order to sing you
I need glass to muffle the sound.

Translated by Liz Winslow