Sunday, September 20, 2015
Guest Blogger From The Maya Angelou Of Iraq: FALEEHA HASSAN
Poet Faleeha Hassan,
The Maya Angelou of Iraq
We age at the speed of war
By Faleeha Hassan
God never asked us when he threw his warning
by saying: become. We were children stuttering
in the whispers of sleeping homes.
We ran to schools surrounded by our mothers’
prayers that feared everything.
But the head mistress shortened our lives with a quiet sentence:
‘we’ll return after the end of the war… in 10 days only’,
in her Kurdish accent.
So we, the students, remained, gathered in the school yard
Wide eyed, our souls bewildered and afraid.
the days stretched and became years;
we separated. The sons to the battleground
and the girls to the waiting steps.
my friends never returned.
their leftovers were gathered in wooden boxes
decorated with holes of separation.
my mother, like us, suffered from waiting;
she sat beside us awaiting my father,
who used to return a time and leave many times;
we didn’t know where he went.
To avoid a question he’d say: to the mobile frontline.
we started to collect our days and stuff them in calendars.
In our grief we painted our eyes with the dust
of graveyards. There was nothing but the banners
(long live the leader).
and yes, he lived long enough to stitch one war with another.
my father’s sister counts her children with her days
they never returned.
In one wake she said goodbye
to all of them
then vowed for a long silence.
‘we left the war as winners’
the leader said
‘lets go to my second war’
the soldiers knew nothing about it.
my mother counts my brother’s soldier belts,
she knows the battles are a loosing game.
as the leader’s belly grows.
He appears, crying on the channels;
‘I only have one suit’,
And behind the screen, he marries his son in a golden aeroplane.
My neighbour pats his son’s back,
‘I returned from the war alive and will stay.’
He rushes before the light of dawn to the hospitals
And the pennies in his veins he invested.
my sister sits,
putting her baby to sleep, she sings: ‘I want the war to never return,
And you stay for me.
make up for your father who left us without rerun.
The martyr of wars.’
But she’s bad,
she eavesdrops, and as soon as he grows she steals him.
‘Don’t you have enough?’
Will there be a day that I can surround my family
with quiet – like other people?
Will there be a day that I count my wishes
in a notepad and they come true?
I am no woman if I don’t speak to you face to face.
And this gesture does not suit you.
You are but the worst free spirit.
*Translated by Dikra Ridha
I was born in 1967 in Najaf, Iraq, where I have been widely published. I consider myself a pioneer bringing my poetry and writing skills to contribute to the cultural enrichment of my war torn country and many other countries around the world.
It would seem strange, indeed, that Iraq, a country at war with itself and its neighbors since the early 1980’s, has given birth to a me, a woman, who has crafted beautiful poetry and short stories in my country and has accomplished so much under such difficult conditions.
In my male dominated society, I have earned my place in literary history with sheer persistence and determination to get my message across to my readers and I have been honored for my body of work in many countries. While I have experienced the horrors of war, I continue to write about my own unique vision of my people and life itself.
I received my Master of Arts degree in Arabic literature from University of Kufa, in Najif, Iraq, in 2006. I have published several collections of my poetry in the Arabic language. I am a noted poet and novelist, having published twelve books, a playwright, having written three plays, and author of over 50 short stories and a children’s book of poetry.
I have been both an editor of a poetry magazine, Banqya Quarterly in Najif, Iraq (2004-2011) and a newspaper of general circulation, Sada Alnareen, 2006-2011in Najif, Iraq. I currently sit on the Editorial Boards of two publications.
Over 100 newspaper articles have been written about my poetry and me and I have received many prestigious awards throughout the Middle East and beyond for my writing. I am still active in the cultural activities of my country of which one play is currently being performed in Iraq.
I have taught high school Arabic language and literature since my undergraduate degree in 1995. I presently live in New Jersey.