Two Poems

Photo: Clarissa Bell

To the Children of War

Mornings, they run from the dark
along the length of the seashore.
Like an iron sword beaten by a blacksmith, the sun reddens
as their feet strike the ground.
Someone’s voice floods your ears –
They reproach you again:
the other children’s eyes fill with tears
and your chest heaves.
But you are happy:
It’s another day, and the sunlight
has pulled you, running, from your hiding place.
Every day at this time, barbed wire pressed to the chest,
a song plays, and somebody sings. I cry out:
I bring a kaman, an anthem for you,
and, if anyone can be roused to help,
I will bring bread baked in the biggest of tendir ovens.
Sometimes your wire-torn knees ache;
you want to beg, fall to your knees before someone –
and you know who they are.
You confess as if you are the guilty one
Closing your eyes to the spirit of childhood:
I caught myself on the barbed wire
Playing, jumping up and down.
They are just children –
afraid, perhaps, at the sight of themselves, how they appear
unable to give up even the ugliest toys
from their bullet-strewn breasts:
Come, let’s go play,
I bring you dolls wearing dresses redder
than the blood frozen to your collar.
I will bring the largest tendir bread
If only I can find someone to help –
Are you hungry?
Thirsty?
Don’t cry.
Soon night will fall,
don’t be frightened, don’t –
my own mother is with you,
nightimes, she will sing you a lullaby.
Hush, she will soothe you.
Let me rest a little too,
then I will go to the shore, and running with all my strength,
my feet striking the ground, I will bring the sun to the sea.

 

You Were Right

You know, you were so right.
Everything should have been frozen in time –
the moment rain washed away the words
wait for me, written on the asphalt
by the neighbor girl in love with a soldier;
the moment the window glass,
fogged with the breath of the neighbor’s daughter,
inscribed with a finger ’til death will I wait,
broke in a sudden blast of wind –
time should have stopped,
the homeland frozen,
and all humanity . . .

You know, you were so right.
Everything should have been frozen in time –
the moment a five-year-old little girl
scrawled on the white fence with a piece of coal:
House for Sale;
the moment a full pitcher of cut glass cracked
in the hands of a young mother, about to splash water
       on her beloved –
time should have stopped,
the homeland frozen,
and all humanity . . .

You know, you were so right.
Everything should have been frozen in time –
one endless sleepy winter night,

the moment a smile appeared on the face of a baby emerging
from the womb of an older woman,
when the despairing old man, dozing at her side,
started at her faint whisper – my son,
time should have stopped,
the homeland frozen,
and all humanity . . .

You know, you were so right
when you said people are traitors.
When you said: People turn their faces from love
your beloved is a murderer.
You were so right.
Love should have stopped then, too.

From the day you spoke this truth,
everyone in this city is as righteous as you.
They pass each other on the streets,
tattooed with the words wait for me, washed by the rain –
all those people whisper the same thing
Everything should have been frozen in time, in time.

Translations from the Azerbaijani
By Alison Mandaville & Shahla Naghiyeva

Feyziyye was born in 1982. She works as a newspaper journalist in Baku. She has published one book of poetry, Message. Her poetry takes up themes of war and displacement.

Alison Mandaville is a poet and assistant professor of literature and English education at California State University.

Shahla Naghiyeva is a professor of literature and translation studies at the Azerbaijan University of Languages.

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