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The Iraqi Nights, Section 7

By Dunya Mikhail

In Iraq,

after a thousand and one nights,

someone will talk to someone else.

Markets will open

for regular customers.

Small feet will tickle

the giant feet of the Tigris.

Gulls will spread their wings

and no one will fire at them.

Women will walk the streets

without looking back in fear.

Men will give their real names

without putting their lives at risk.

Children will go to school

and come home again.

Chickens in the villages

won’t peck at human flesh

on the grass.

Disputes will take place

without any explosives.

A cloud will pass over cars

heading to work as usual.

A hand will wave

to someone leaving

or returning.

The sunrise will be the same

for those who wake

and those who never will.

And every moment

something ordinary

will happen

under the sun.

Added: Friday, March 4, 2016  /  From "The Iraqi Nights" (New Directions, 2014). Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Used with permission.
Dunya Mikhail
Photo by: Michael Smith

Dunya Mikhail Dunya Mikhail was born in Iraq in 1965 and was forced to flee in the wake of the first Gulf War when her writings attracted the attention of Saddam Hussein’s government. She is the author of The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014); The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005), shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and named one of “Twenty-Five Books to Remember from 2005” by the New York Public Library; and Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (New Directions, 2009) which won the 2010 Arab American Book Award. Her honors also include the UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing (2001) and Kresge Artist Fellowship (2013).

Mikhail writes in Arabic, Aramaic, and English. Her work is translated into English by Elizabeth Winslow and Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Her poetry is translated into Italian by Elena Chiti. Mikhail currently lives in Michigan and works as an Arabic lecturer for Oakland University.

Other poems by this author