Sura-Mn-Ra’a and other poems (Poetry)

By Nedhal Abbas
December 14, 2005


On Friday morning
In Sura-Mn-Ra’a
A young man lays in pieces
Torn apart by sniper’s fire

A woman
In Black A’baya
Passes by
Holding her toddler by the hand.

The child
Stares at the remains,
At a hand opened to the sky.
He reaches for a touch,
Could it be his father’s?

* Sura-Mn-Ra’a: “A delight to the seer”, the old name of the modern city of Samarra (??????), which stands on the east bank of the Tigris, 125 Km north of Baghdad and is famous for its Great Mosque with its unique spiral minaret built in 847. In October 2004, The US occupation forces led an assault on Samarra. Hundreds of people were killed. Bodies were left in the streets and could not be collected for fear of American snipers.

To My Best Friend

I’m glad to hear from you again.
Hope you are alright
Do I remember your brother?
Of course I do

We used to play together
On the roof of our house
In Baghdad.
How is he?

At Kahramana roundabout
Under the glary heat of Baghdad’s sun
A white bearded man
Wearing a white dishdasha
Carrying a heavy water melon
Approaches home
His steps
His toes cling desperately
To heavy mud coloured
Mo’aad** flip-flops

At Kahramana roundabout
Under the glary heat of Baghdad’s sun
A three humvee convoy
Moving fast towards
The sheltered zone


A white bearded man
Lies on the ground
His eyes gazing at the bleeding heart of Baghdad’s sun
His white dishdasha his chest his legs covered in red
His mud coloured
Mo’aad flip-flops
In a pool of thick blood

Do I remember your brother?
Of course I do
He used to laugh aloud
On his own silly jokes
How is he now?
Still laughs aloud?
I hope.

* Salam: An Arabic word meaning peace and greetings.
** Mo’aad: recycled – heavy mud coloured sandals. Flip-flops and kitchen utensils were made of recycled plastic during the sanction years.

Freedom Carol

I’ll say it again:
There are few things
On which we all agree;
Sooner or later
You’ll be free.

Democracy is new for you
But never mind
We will teach you

Move forward
Go on
This is what you trained for
You are the hunter
You are the predator
Freedom is beautiful
Do you hear?

Soldiers march,
On native’s bodies
Battling a stench
They chant
Freedom is beautiful

By tanks
By warplanes,
Apache, Kiowa, marine cobra.
Smoke grenades
By Sniper shots
We’ll end your plight

They deliver.
Wrapped in democracy,
Coloured in freedom,
Packages of
Un-named mutilated naked burned
Blown apart un-counted bodies

We receive
Men women and children

Mohamed, Ali, Omar, Jawad
Selma, Nadia, Fatima, Suhad
Hussein, Ahmed, Salam, Azad
Aysha, Amal, Maysoon, Nuhad
Faisal, Raad, Zaid, Widad
Nuha, Haifaa, Kifah, Souad

From a distance
Chorus of freedom recite:

We’ll say it again;
Can’t you understand?
It’s our mission
To put an end
To your plight

Ya* Ali

This is by no means
The whole story

We can see the end
Not the process
The consequences
Not the causes

In Najaf
At Imam Ali’s** shrine
A sad recognition of…
What? I ask.

Ya Ali
A woman mourns
Cuddling her dead son
Looking at the sky
Not the shrine
As if…
What? I ask.

A bomb falls

On a house
Not the shrine
Al hamdullilah
Thank God

Ya Ali
In the haunting miles
Of Wadi Assalam***
To bury their fear
Conjure the blessings of
The murdered Imam.

F16 strikes

Silence no more
Noble, dispassionate,
One and a half million Dead
Bound to no one
They murmur
Ya Ali

In the Sahan****
By the shadow of the Imam
A young fighter
An old book in hand
He reads
“Proclaim the truth”
“Stand by the oppressed not the oppressor”*****.

Apache helicopters fire

Thick black smoke rises
Smell of burnt flesh
Fills the air
Is he someone we know?
I ask.

Yaaa Aliiiiii
I hear no answer.

* Ya: To call and plead.
** Imam Ali: Cousin and son in law of Mohamed, the prophet. In Iraqi popular culture he is invoked for help, especially by women in need. He is buried in Najaf city.
*** Wadi Assalam: Valley of peace, in Najaf, the largest cemetery in the world.
**** Sahan: courtyard of a shrine.
***** Sayings by Imam Ali

Translated by Haifa Zangana.

Nedhal Abbas is an Iraqi poet. She published her first book of poetry, Dreams of Invisible Pleasures, in Arabic, in 1999.