From The Journals of Abu Nowas

To those carried from the tranquil river, abandoned in the creeks of the strange lands, divided between the fields of sorrow and the fields of longing, resisting half-divine emperors — Wael

Abu Nowas was an Arab poet
Al Hussein is the grandson of Prophet Mohammad
Karbala is a city in Iraq where Al Hussein was killed

Note One

Leaving classroom were we;
Childhood-ink the uniform smudges, 
Birds flying through the houses
    descending on the distant palms

Heads or tails?
Yelled my friend, flipping his coin in the air
    and catching it

Heads or tails?
Yelled at me, and attentive I became,
    while a fly distracted my sparkling eyne
Tails, said I
Cheerfully unclenched his hand,
The face of the happy Emperor it was,
    gloriously smiling

Heads or tails?, I yelled
Quivered his eyne, with youth and brilliance
The Emperor, without a stutter or hesitation, said he
Unclenched I my hand
Engraved text it was
    solidly salient

Revolved has earth
Carried us the well-poles from the tranquil river
In the creeks of the strange lands abandoned us;
Divided between the fields of sorrow
    and the fields of longing

In one lonely night, like two drops,
    we met on the stairs of the palace
I was the King’s tapster 
My friend was the doorman

Note Two

Who owns the coin
    holds both faces
And the destitute, in between, are ripped 

Note Three

Sleeping next to him I was, 
Awakening my father, I heard the guards
Mole, they yelled
Renegade, they yelled
Who? Me?!

Sobbed the child in my mom’s chest
In her nightwear, and her hair down, standing was she
Shut up, they yelled
We hid, behind the wall
Shut up, they yelled
A line of blood creeped in the throat 
holding his injury was my dad 
holding his posture, and his family dignity

O dad
Shut up
And I hid in my mom’s garment
Muted was the child buried in her chest 
They took my dad
Mute orphans, they left us

Note Four

O poetry, O you stolen happiness
All I wrote in these papers was seized by the night-watchmen

Note Five

An enslaved foreigner my mom became
Her masters circle sex-coffee,
    while she flips the firewood
To her behind her masters trade the looks 
    while she bends to light the fire
Ridicule, her kind masters, her foreign accent

Sleeping next to her I was
Leaning, saw I, the holy spirit patting her cheek
Unwrapped, bit by bit, the arms holding me
In my heart, seeped the chills of silence
Mom, I yelled
Echoed my voice
Only death answered
Embraced her I, and wept
The tears clouded my eyne,
    until I choked

Note Six

Ask me not
    if Quraan is created or eternal
But rather ask me
    if the Emperor is a thief, or half-divine 

Note Seven

In Karbala I was
Al-Hussein died for a sip of water, the Sheikh said
Bewildered I was
How dare the swords violate the sanctity of the descendants of the two nobles!
Answered he who the heavens have enlightened
It is the sparkling gold in the eyne

If the words of Al-Hussein
    the swords of Al-Hussein,
    and the dignity of Al-Hussein, 
    have fallen short of saving justice from the gold of the royals, 
    would the blabber of poets save justice?
And the Euphrates is an endless line of blood

Died for a sip of water!
Night and day, O boy, fill me up
O boy, fill me up
Perhaps with wine 
    the blood shall I forget

Wael AbdAlmageed

Pittsburgh, December 7, 2021

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