The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

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DEC 20-JAN 21 Issue

from Except for This Unseen Thread

Burying the Corpse

They’re returning late

the old woman puts out a bowl of soup

the task must have been difficult

Why are they late? For what emergency?

They went to bury the sun’s corpse in the mountain

they must be struggling to move their feet

ice lakes crack underneath them

twigs break in their hands

their rifles melt on their backs

in the twilight of snow

the old woman keeps on stirring

the empty bowl

Empty House

The mirror stayed calm

and quiet, as they carried her

to the Friday market

she did not object

when they wanted to sell her,

she was displayed

and the house was emptied of her

Yesterday, they buried a bird in the garden

and a cage became empty

Today they carry the empty cage

with the quiet mirror to the Friday market

the house is emptied of them.

The house has become empty

empty, completely

For so long they lived together

the empty cage and the mirror

Infiltrated Solitude

We have returned to the safe place

we took off the wings of exile

and lay down on our sides

next to the stones

our hearts are food for insects

we look towards the crack

from which the light is pouring down

Our eyes stand still in their sockets

listening attentively

listening to a strange clamor outside

we keep on listening, baffled –

even in this safe place

the strange clamor doesn’t stop?

Wax Bust of an Absent Man

She covers the smile of the disappeared man

with the shadow of her wings

She moves in a circular motion

before the flame, restless

the disappeared man extends his fingers down

into the graveyard of butterflies...

His footprints disappear

before a half-opened door

and the butterfly moves, restless

The Poem of His Death

He writes the poem of his death

he writes the poem of his death every day

he writes everyday a new poem of his death

and whenever he is done with a poem

he expects to have put an ending to his life

he has lived long and tried living out his poems

today he wants to try out the poem of his death

he wrote thousands of lines, but he hasn’t written

the poem of his death

he wrote many poems

but none of them was the poem of his death...

he wrote thousands of lines about flowers

he can capture the beginning of a thing and its ending

but not its cycle

He starts a poem and ends it without caring

for his feelings

or the feelings of his poem

He looks at his finger pointing to the sky,

poetry explodes

from the blue stone in his black ring

He is putting his finger on the white paper

to write: “the blue stone of the black ring

on the white paper, a glowing finger”

Finally, he’s found an ending

for the last poem of his death


Mona Kareem

Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections and three book-length translations. Her work has been translated into Farsi, Turkish, French, English, Spanish, Dutch, and German.

Ra’ad Abdulqadir

Ra’ad Abdulqadir (1953–2003) is a pioneer of the Iraqi prose poem, the author of five poetry collections, and a lifelong editor of Aqlam, Iraq’s leading literary magazine. Except for This Unseen Thread: Selected Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse) is his first collection in English translation.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues