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Baghdad Before the Occupation

By Amal Al-Jubouri

—My solitude, to which I always returned
City that kept my secret religion in her libraries

I came back to rest my head on her shoulder
and with just one look, she saw how tired I was

She wrapped her gardens, her fragrance, around me
She warmed me and in her eyes I saw
how stupid I’d been

My poems were tears that reached my beloved
long before I did

Added: Friday, February 26, 2016  /  From "Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation" (Alice James Books, 2008). Translation by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Quaisi. Used with permission.
Amal Al-Jubouri

Amal al-Jubouri is an Iraqi poet, activist and human rights lawyer. She has published numerous poetic works and films, including the award-winning Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation, translated by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi. In 1989 she founded the publishing house Al Masar (now East West Diwan), translating international literature into Arabic, and published the first Arabic anthology of contemporary English poetry. In 1997, Al-Jubouri took political asylum with her daughter in Munich, Germany where she published her third poetry collection, This Body is Yours, Do Not Fear for My Sake and won the Silver Prize in aesthetics from the Beirut Book Fair. Her exile made her a major force for literary activism between the Middle East and the West. In 2000, she organized the first Arabic-German poetry conference in Yemen, and was subsequently invited to be the Cultural Counselor for the Yemeni government, a role she held for 11 years. She founded the only Arabic-German poetry magazine, Diwan. In 2000, the Ba’ath Party published in Babel and Al Zawraa a register of the regime’s enemies and her name was first on the list. Al-Jubouri also founded the Diwan Poetry Prize, which awards the best unpublished Arabic collection in each year, in 2005, and the Iraqi PEN in Damascus in 2007. Amal al-Jubouri’s poems have been translated into ten different languages. In addition to currently writing her memoir, Amal works in Iraq and London promoting human rights and continues to publish poetry. Visit her website for more information.

Other poems by this author