Two Doves by Faleeha Hassan

Every time my father is late from the front line

Sickness strikes my mother

and I tour with her the hospitals of Najaf.


I write to him ‘come back to us now,

Make your sergeant read my words: I am about to die’.


He returns my letter, laughing:

‘We are the amusement of the blindman’.


Oh, you River of Jasim, you tore my years

Between my father’s assumed victories

And my mother’s wishes in the emergency room;


They used to plant hope in her mind

By sticking on the glass door,

Two notices confirming: (awaiting death certificate).


Her heart ages so fast

And I vomit from hearing the chants.

Every time the presenter says ‘Victory is on the horizon’,


My grandmothers’ eyes rise to the ceiling –

She hides a mocking smile.


With rage I scream at the screen ‘no victory’s coming’.


She whispers: ‘god is generous’.

‘You sound like my father when I asked for new toys’.

She quietens and we contend,

Awaiting his return before a new battle,

Fearing that a last fight may end the life of a dove.



Translated by Dikra Ridha


Najaf: an Iraqi city, where the poet was born and lived most of her life.

The River Jasim: is a river situated between Iraq and Iran, the location of many battles during the Iraq/Iran war.

Lipstick by Faleeha Hassan

 A Babylonian once told me:

When my name bores me,

I throw it in the river

And return renewed!

* * * * * *

*Basra existed

Even before al-Sayyab* viewed its streets

Bathed in poetry

As verdant as

A poet’s heart when her

Prince pauses trustfully to sing

While sublime maidens dance–

Brown like mud in the orchards

Soft like mud in the orchards

Scented with henna like mud in the orchards—

And a poem punctuates each of their pirouettes as

They walk straight to the river.

I’ve discovered no place in the city broader than Five Mile.

He declared:

I used to visit there night and day,

When sun and moon were locked in intimate embrace.

Then they quarreled.

The Gulf’s water was sweet,

Each ship would unload its cargo,

And crew members enjoyed a bite of an apple

And some honey.

The women were radiant;

So men’s necks swiveled each time ladies’ shadows

Moved beneath the palms’ fronds.

These women needed no adornment;

Translated by William Hutchins


*Basra, also written Basrah  is the capital of Basra Governorate, located on the Shatt al-Arab river in southern Iraq between Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of 1.5 million of 2012.

Basra is also Iraq’s main port, although it does not have deep water access, which is handled at the port of Umm Qasr.

The city is part of the historic location of Sumer, the home of Sinbad the Sailor, and a proposed location of the Garden of Eden. It played an important role in early Islamic history and was built in 636 AD or 14 AH. It is Iraq’s second largest and most populous city after Baghdad.

 Basra is consistently one of the hottest cities on the planet, with summer temperatures regularly exceeding 50 °C (122 °F)

*Badr Shakir al Sayyab (December 24, 1926 – 1964) was an Iraqi and Arab poet. Born in Jekor, a town south of Basra in Iraq, he was the eldest child of a date grower and shepherd.

 He graduated from the Higher teachers training college of Baghdad in 1948

Badr Shakir was dismissed from his teaching post for being a member of the Iraqi Communist Party.

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab was one of the greatest poets in Arabic literature, whose experiments helped to change the course of modern Arabic

poetry. At the end of the 1940s he launched, with Nazik al-Mala’ika,and shortly followed by ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī and Shathel Taqa, the free verse movement and gave it credibility with the many fine poems he published in the fifties.

 These included the famous “Rain Song,” which was instrumental in drawing attention to the use of myth in poetry. He revolutionized all the elements of the poem and wrote highly involved political and social poetry, along with many personal poems.


Cesspool Your Name is War by Faleeha Hassan

As they opened the gates of war
My father has had to take off his youth
To go in stripped of hope of return,
And mom had lie in the bed of tears
Covered with her agony.
Only I was there,
Foolishly, watching the silent clock on the wall
As it struck my disappointments, one by one.
Two wars had later passed, or more,
When father returned but as a flag,
Mother flapped, and both vanished high into the sky.
Since then our home has turned into a soldier’s boot.
Whenever I try to dust it off,
A burnt memory would fall off a day
.That’d been lost in the cesspool of war
Translated into English by
        Hussein Nasser Jabr