Fadhil al-Azzawi
Fadhil al-Azzawi
Bedouins under an alien sky


Misguiding the thieves
creeping about at night,
we hide the Holy Spirit,
with its gouged eyes,
in the refrigerator.

On the wall we hang seismographic charts
and chatter about Einstein and his black holes.  
We sit in the kitchen and smoke;
heavy water mixed with peppermint
boils in the kettle
while the blind goose that lays
golden eggs
is roasting in the oven.

The Wise Men have come at last.
Salima says, “I’ll make
an angel’s breakfast
for our guests.”
We change our places and go
to the living room,
and wait for our coffee.

The life has become really expensive;
all these hypotheses only to measure
the light curve,
all these victims to win a single war,
all these pharaohs only to ask
for a mummy’s hand.
Nobody talks about all that now.
Nobody cares for others
because there is no proof of anything.
What is positive is also negative
like every hope, like every doubt.

Oh, so many mysterious tribes wandering
among these empty galaxies.

In a garden, in a distant garden,
we lie back under alien stars
and remind ourselves of our happy days
in paradise.


Here is the twentieth century
in its long dim hall
with murderers and conjurers
sitting at its table
in the flickering candlelight
of their victory
and waiting for their meal.
The waiters come out
one by one
from their hidden corners
balancing dishes of darkness
on their heads
to serve their guests.

They will all drink from the same bottle
watching the evening fall among the trees.
Parades of drunken soldiers
wave their bloody flags
and march down the street.

Through the window
the moon will soon shine.

When they finish their feast
we will sit at that same table
and drink the same wine


Three Bedouins in a desert,
carrying sacks strapped to their shoulders,
walking one after the other
stooped for eternity
like defeated soldiers.

Three Bedouins in the desert
walk on silently.
as the wind blows now and then
and wipes out their traces.


What are we waiting for?
Everything turned out well in the end

The moon went out suddenly
and the lovers headed home.
The wars ended too
and we carried the corpses to the cemetery.
The hands that were stained with blood
we washed in the river.
Clouds darkened the sky,
the winds blew them away.

As we stood at the freezing bus stop
our last bus passed and sped by in the dark
There was nothing but to walk back on foot
along the Milky Way.

Never trust the night at night!

What are you waiting here for?


On the way to heaven
on the way to hell
I saw a dozen prophets
with long hennaed beards
gathering gems and pearls for me.
I saw angels
spilling like evil souls
through the cracks of shattered dawns.
I saw Bedouins running
along greedy shores
feeding their dying embers
with my eternal fire.

Launching my scream
into the hollow ears of the world
I held these sluggish caravans
starved and lost
and guided them
to their promised land.

On the sea,
as my boat twisted its prow
through huge waves
rushing from the horizon,
the desert’s black bloated clouds
showed me the old warrior’s path
sloping down to the plain of shadows
and I went on.

Along the way
barbed wire stretched before me
and life sang
her joyous melodies
to vanished pyramids.

Oh, who knows if the sand
will ever remember me
in this everlasting exile.

Within the broken heart of earth
under twisted, riven rocks
the darkness grew and grew.
The bloodstained spears of my forefathers
pierced God’s purple skin
deep into the scales of the creeping serpent
and stabbing once, twice . . .

Wandering in the heavy rain
of prehistory
I lived and hoped
to reach another shore, new and green.
But the cunning storm thrust
its sinnewy arms
and dragged my broken boat
into the bleeding abyss of history
giving me in its second whirl
dizzy once more
the blessings of amnesia.

O treacherous ages, I forgive you!

Long and desolate is my road,
to all those distant planets
between the Little Bear
and the Big Dipper.

Come, Fadhil, come.
Let’s begin our journey again
to the city of Heaven, of course.
As for thou, Al-Azzawi,
go straight to Hell.

Translated by the author
and Khaled Mattawa

This selection is taken from new and unpublished poems, those published in Arab newpspapers, and from the poet’s collections in Arabic and in German