Occupation 1943

Translated by Khaled Mattawa
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

More Poems by Saadi Youssef