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Abdulkareem Kasid

The Brick Café   

By the café built of sunbaked brick
The Bedouin and the taxis stop.
A child in a wooden bus
Squeezed between sheep
Cranes his neck at a window to see
Then disappears.
Red headscarves,
Oil-stained rags,
Petrol smells,
Soldiers listening to a radio,
Minds blank –
Back at the frontier
They will die like cattle . . .
At the brick café where the Bedouin stop
Where a truck, back from the front line,
Brings them their dead.

I crossed here, the child said
Under a strange star
Through ruins smouldering after raids.
Who comes in the night?
Bread turns to ash.
Sadness, an Iraqi starving.

Corpses don’t travel beyond the brick café.
The villagers hold them there.
Not one is recognised.

They arrive bare-foot, naked,
Leaving no trace behind them,
Only a dog barking
In a reed hut.
On  the far bank
They wash themselves in the river
Over and over again.
Their blood stays red.
They back away from the river
Like savages terrified by fire,
Tramping  the desert
Like hyenas returning at night.

Where did that star lose me,
Abandoning the child,
Stumbling on ghost-towns and bombings?
Who is the passenger that crosses by night?
Something strange about this star.     
The women’s burqas jostle each other.      
At the café where the bedouin,
And the sealed jeeps cross,
A child in a wooden bus
Squeezed between sheep,
Cranes his neck from a window
And is gone.

 

 

Translated by the poet and Sara Halub, with David Kuhrt and John Welch

 

Copyright © Sara Halub, David Kuhrt, John Welch, Abdukareem Kasid, 2012