Road to Beauty; Gifts of Iraq, Poetry of Saadi Youssef

For anyone who thinks the golden age of Mesopotamia ended ages ago.

Poetry by Saadi Youssef, translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa

The River

A pathway of willows, water moss, and greenery

cuts through a sea of date palms.

A flower in my hat.

A river of basil,

silence and pomegranates

stretch to her shuttered home,

to rose shrubs in her orchard

and an insomniac moon

and sadness sailing it’s boat.


River, silver is swaying

on your green waters. Do not drown it.

From its basket, dawn is tossing

sunlight in radiant clusters of dew

like a frond with leaves of coral.


River, if you reach her house

to caress it, or to make it one of your banks,

take this flower to her,

take this coral flower to her.


Maybe with it

she will forget to forget.

Basra, 28/1/1962

Image: Army Corp of Engineers, public domain

The Murdered Come Out At Night

At night they awake,

their white eyes forever open wide.

And in the city, even through its narrow alleys,

they walk, their shrouds hardly concealing their limbs.

They walk. Their mouths are orchards

of lead, singing, and the alleys resound.


We hear them when the children shiver.

No other sound can voice this wild despair.

A sound that knocks on doors and burns

like a bird crossing the valley of death and flowering.

May ends… and from the waves of its banners

blood will gush to startle a dozing nation.

Baghdad, 2/9/1960

Public Domain

Poems from

Without An Alphabet, Without a Face

by Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef


About Frances Wiedenhoeft

After a lifetime in nursing, anesthesia and the Army I now write, blog, attend school for journalism and massage, and watch my 3 grandchildren. I am a veteran of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and try to serve other vets such as myself, and to work for peace.
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