Like you, my horror is carved by the morning
blood. I have no time to unroll dreams. The clock ticks,
unveiling the old city structures, the guillotine of womanhood.

Oh Shahrazad, the morning knows how to bite us—
the radio brings another memory from a song full of light:

I travel towards a city made of kohl and laughter,
full of red lipstick—like every disappointment.
Stuck in my own skin, I shake my head in my headscarf, and carry it along a nightmarish road—
like a coffin stuffed with a short life.

Oh Shahrazad, come! Let’s put on our story as a play
staged for muddy roads.
The city grows in my throat so I cannot speak. The city

is a stuffed god wrapped in black banners, an old minaret. My childhood breaks on the remains of this desert,
on carnivals of blood celebrated as weddings,
faces marked with terror, stories of graves.

No time now for rosy hopes, nor to savor the aroma of joy.
No sun tremors with a kiss.

To whom shall we say, We were created for the morning?
Tomorrow the morning carries its coffin
and opens a banquet of isolation.

Let’s get out of this portrait, together! Seeing the view from above,

closer inspection reveals the luminous blood of the Virgin Mary,
the desperate eyes in the street—
and from every mouth pours the curse of emptiness.
A depraved caveman wipes his face in defeat.

Callously, this backward man of the cave
throws grains of sand into the face of the dewy
and green. The man of the cave smokes my days away like a
blinding me with noxious fumes. Who washes the morning of the city
with musk? Who wakes up a killer of love,

after the full imposition of war? I bend like dry grass,
I swallow the roads within my silence.
I carry the depression of the city over my head
and I fold butterfly wings under the cover of stories. Let us cry

for other paths, oh Shahrazad! Those paths are not covered
by the grand vault of sacred speech a man shoves together.
That backwardness cannot coexist with the womanly body that
          can dance.

Azhar Ali Hussein (Author) / Amir Al-Azraki and Jennifer Jean (Translators)

Azhar is a poet, short story writer, journalist, actress, film director, and scenarist. She works as a program producer for Alhurra TV. She is the author of numerous works of poetry, fiction and film including Taheta Sama Ukhra (Under Another Sky) and Mirath al-Dima (Legacy of Blood).

Amir Al-Azraki is an Assistant Professor of Arabic language and comparative literature at Renison University College. He is also a playwright, among his plays are: Waiting for Gilgamesh, Stuck, and The Widow.

Jennifer is the author of a poetry collection, The Fool. Her awards include: a 2018 Disquiet Fellowship, a 2017 “Her Story Is” residency in Dubai, where she collaborated with Iraqi women artists, and a 2013 Ambassador for Peace Award for her activism in the arts.

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