Mahmoud al-Braikan
Mahmoud al-Braikan
Three Poems


The mysterious river
flows quietly underground
It flows in the dark
It makes no sound
It has no shape
It flows under the scorched desert
beneath the fields and orchards
under villages and cities
It runs and runs
towards its unknown mouth
through caves and lakes and reservoirs
It patiently carves its bed
in time with the pulse of the earth
The mysterious underground river
that has no name
that leaves no trace
on any map
in any guidebook
That underground river
eternally flows
It flows and flows


On one of my journeys
I entered it, a silent city
devoid of any sign of life
its doors closed
wind blowing in its squares
but the lights in its windows
burning all through the night.
Who switches the lights on?
I saw the wilted flowers
and the children’s broken swings
in the park . . .
I knocked on doors,
and called. Could it be
that they have all died?  Or left?
Or become invisible
because of some kind of spell?
Then I suddenly saw
the shadow of a woman
move slowly upon its marble plinth
struggling to awake from sleep,
and I called: “Eve, don’t you know
who I am? – Adam.”
But she couldn’t recognise
the language I spoke.


A voice like no other
comes from the end of wilderness
A voice like the call
of a dying god
who utters his curse
the groans of a wounded beast
the howling of a wind
that is not of this world.
A voice stabs in the night
in its heart.
In the beginning
no one heard it.
Then they got used to it
as it cut through the glittering lights of their city.
No one paid attention
any longer
No one questioned
its presence.
You alone, poet,
stay up all night
awaiting the  voice
that is wrapped in mystery
And why wouldn’t it be possible
to advance the idea
that calamities are to be
expected, and that disasters
will strike?

Translated by Sargon Boulos

Translated from a new gathering of Mahmoud al-Braikan’s poems Matahat al-Farasha, 70 Qassida 1958-98,  [The Butterfly Labyrinth, 70 Poems1958-98], assembled, selected and introduced by Bassem Al-Meraiby,  Nippur Fˆrlag, Sweden, 2003.