Occupation 1943

By Saadi Youssef Saadi Youssef

Translated By Khaled Mattawa Read the translator's notes

We boys, the neighborhood’s barefoot
We boys, the neighborhood’s naked
We boys of stomachs bloated from eating mud
We boys of teeth porous from eating dates and pumpkin rind

We boys will line up from Hassan al-Basri’s mausoleum to the Ashar River’s source
to meet you in the morning waving green palm fronds

We will cry out: Long Live
We will cry out: Live to Eternity
And we will hear the music of Scottish bagpipes, gladly
Sometimes we will laugh at an Indian soldier’s beard
but fear will merge with our laughs, and dispute them

We cry out: Long Live
We cry out: Live to Eternity
and reach our hands toward you: Give us bread
We the hungry, starving since our birth in this village
Give us meat, chewing gum, cans, and fish
Give us, so no mother expels her child
so that we do not eat mud and sleep

We boys, the neighborhood’s barefoot
do not know from where you had come
or why you had come
or why we cry out: Long Live

And now we ask: will you stay long?
And will we go on reaching our hands toward you?

London, December 3, 2002

Source: Poetry (April 2006).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2006
 Saadi  Youssef


Saadi Youssef was born in 1934 in Iraq and is considered one of the most important contemporary poets in the Arab world. Following his experience as a political prisoner in Iraq, he has spent most of his life in exile, working as a journalist throughout North Africa and the Middle East. He now lives in London, where he is also a leading translator of English literature into Arabic.

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Saadi Youssef

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse, Refrain

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