Tablets

By Dunya Mikhail b. 1965 Dunya Mikhail

Translated By Kareem James Abu-Zeid

1

She pressed her ear against the shell:
she wanted to hear everything
he never told her.


2

A single inch
separates their two bodies
facing one another
in the picture:
a framed smile
buried beneath the rubble.



3

Whenever you throw stones
into the sea
it sends ripples through me.



4

My heart’s quite small:
that’s why it fills so quickly.



5

Water needs no wars
to mix with water
and fill up spaces.



6

The tree doesn’t ask why it’s not moving
to some other forest
nor any other pointless questions.



7

He watches tv
while she holds a novel.
On the novel’s cover
there’s a man watching tv
and a woman holding a novel.



8

On the first morning
of the new year
all of us will look up
at the same sun.



9

She raised his head to her chest.
He did not respond:
he was dead.



10

The person who gazed at me for so long,
and whose gaze I returned for just as long . . .    
That man who never once embraced me,
and whom I never once embraced  . . .    
The rain wrecked the colors around him
on that old canvas.



11

He was not with the husbands
who were lost and then found;
he did not come with the prisoners of war,
nor with the kite that took her,
in her dream,
to some other place,
while she stood before the camera
to have her smile
glued into the passport.



12

Dates piled high
beside the road:
your way
of  kissing me.



13

Rapunzel’s hair
reaching down
from the window
to the earth
is how we wait.



14

The shadows
the prisoners left
on the wall
surrounded the jailer
and cast light
on his loneliness.



15

Homeland, I am not your mother,
so why do you weep in my lap like this
every time
something hurts you?



16

Never mind this bird:
it comes every day
and stops at the branch’s edge
to sing for an hour
or two.
That’s all it does:
nothing makes it happier.



17

House keys,
identity cards,
faded pictures among the bones . . .    
All of these are scattered
in a single mass grave.



18

The Arabic language
loves long sentences
and long wars.
It loves never-ending songs
and late nights
and weeping over ruins.
It loves working
for a long life
and a long death.



19

Far away from home — 
that’s all that changed in us.



20

Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq
along with the smell of cardamom
wafting from the teapot,
and that huge flower,
its mouth gaping like death.



21

Instant messages
ignite revolutions.
They spark new lives
waiting for a country to download,
a land that’s little more
than a handful of dust
when faced with these words:
“There are no results that match your search.”



22

The dog’s excitement
as she brings the stick to her owner
is the moment of opening the letter.



23

We cross borders lightly
like clouds.
Nothing carries us,
but as we move on
we carry rain,
and an accent,
and a memory
of another place.



24

How thrilling to appear in his eyes.
She can’t understand what he’s saying:
she’s too busy chewing his voice.
She looks at the mouth she’ll never kiss,
at the shoulder she’ll never cry on,
at the hand she’ll never hold,
and at the ground where their shadows meet.

Source: Poetry (March 2014).

 Dunya  Mikhail

Biography

Iraqi American poet Dunya Mikhail was born in Baghdad and earned a BA at the University of Baghdad. She worked as a translator and journalist for the Baghdad Observer before being placed on Saddam Hussein’s enemies list. She immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and earned an MA at Wayne State University. Mikhail is the author of several collections of poetry published in Arabic. Her first book published in English, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Love, Desire, Realistic & Complicated, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Middle East

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

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