Four Poems

Jan Dammu in Asymtote

Four poems by Jan Dammu have been translated from the Arabic by Suneela Mubayi. Jan Dammu was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1943. He spent most of his life in Baghdad’s bars and cafes, living a counterculture lifestyle until moving to Australia (via Jordan) where he died in 2003: 

  Schubert the Greek 

Is it a new birth,
insomnia’s sediments 
from feathers, memories,
and bullets?
A new departure, a counter-departure.
There is no equality yet between
snow’s shadow and shadow’s ash.
Should one take refuge in Narcissus (or Bacchus)
for the sake of decoding the talismanic rose
or the butterflies that flit
in the corridors opened by our sleep
that fossilize us?

How distant are the paved roads of childhood.
How close are the roads of death.
Greek sculptures are capable of
the liquidation of minds that alienation’s echo 
filled with dirt.
Schubert once more, and the tears are not enough.
It is our duty to toss the keys into the President’s hands.

The Shade

Bore deeper into your aversion, O reality,
as that might be more becoming for the ripping up of the stars.
Stars! A foot in search of something that resembles it. A foot that sprouts leaves with dreams. A foot that severs.
The axe that was crafted to cut trees trunks will remain an axe always.
The final arrival to the realm of my arms was on Tuesday.
Between rain and reality, god’s shadow 

Here I am, en route to practice my humanity.
The room is box-shaped, just like the heart,
With the last of my cigarettes, anxiety reaches its most ferocious state.
I descend.


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