Yahia Al-Samawi



Yahia Al-Samawi is a prolific, award winning Iraqi poet, writer, and educator, who currently lives in Australia. He was born in Samawa, Iraq, in 1949. He graduated from Al-Mustansyriah University in Baghdad, and worked both as a teacher and journalist. His poems have been published in both Arabic and Australian media. A selection of his poems titled Two Banks with No Bridge was translated into English by Eva llis and published by Picaro Press in Australia. Another selection titled The Last Lover was translated by Nizar Sartawi and published by the Jordanian Writers Association. Other writers who translated his work into English include Saleh Jawad Altema, Raghid Nahas, and Ann Forborne. Al-Samawi has participated in many Arab and international poetry events. He has published more than twenty poetry collections, including: Your Eyes are a World; My Heart is Fixed on My Country; A Word as Big the Homeland; Songs of the Drifter; The Choice; The Horizon is My Window; Wild Lilies; Your Eyes are My Home and Exile; This is My Tent: Where is My Home?; Inscriptions on the Trunk of a Palm Tree; A Little Bit of You, Not Much of Them; and Save Me from Me.

Yahia Al-Samawi’s poems are translated from the original Arabic into English by poet and translator Nizar Sartawi.

Before the War… and After It

I have two homelands

The first extends like an umbilical cord
joining the palm trees of Basra*

with fig groves in Kurdistan
overflowing with grass… joy… and peace
The second is made of paper…
in which I grow flowers of love
that yield poetry and silken scarves
Between them I am a singing bird

with the last call for dawn prayer in the month
of Sha’bani*
in the national year of the Elephant, they both got burned
The first homeland turned into wilderness
The second?
blast… and smoke!

I have two graves
The first is in my heart
where I have buried a country
that once had smiling shores
The second?
is within a body that knows not
where the spirit is staying now
Between them I am a walking coffin…
a cry of silence raised in the cave of exile
by the throat of oblivion


The pulse of my lingo is cold…
Who can bring me
alphabets that sparrows can spell and butterflies recite
if they say their prayers on a rug
with flowers of light
in the prayer chamber of a transparent lantern?

I feel so cold…
The flames of passion might startle the deer of the soul…
desertify my garden
and what the days have left for me
in my heart’s flask of nectar
and shimmering

Wrap me up with a spring that draws from you rain of warmth…
that sends pulse into the root of the autumn trees


The evening flung its cloak on the city
and Samawahi* Bridge wore a robe of light…
We had set up the traps of eyes just before sunset
at the sandy beach…
but the palms
concealed the gazelle…
so we descended towards the river cliff
The water was parched
and the grass of my blood was ensanguined with burning thirst

In the abandoned boat
before the crowing of the dawn rooster:
my oven revealed the flames of passion
I was tempted by God’s celibate palm tree
to pick the dates of white desire
I unleashed the horses of my embers
to neigh

Our waters overflowed
and the torrent was my ascension
to the door key of the impossible

We turned in little children again
sleeping with the stars
on the bed of the abandoned boat
Wrapped were we with holy water
and with cooing

We do not live in the age of miracles
So how has your assassinated lover returned ensanguined in pulsation?


Night is my field
I assault you with a great army of kisses…
I loot the silver of the breasts…
the flowers of jasmine…
figs and chrysanthemum flowers…

and come back with war prisoners:
baskets of roses…
and warmth of soft fires…

when the morning rises…

I come back, a river without water…
a fiddle with slaughtered strings…
a song
that the wind blows away

My caravan is prompted by ash
My palanquins are desolate
save for
the corpse of my martyred dreams
and the proscribed lovesickness

It is time for the guitar to lament the melodies
and stop chirping

Grief has announced: God is great
The lamp has moved towards the cave
The prayer of tears has started
Come to the wounds


* Basra is a major city on the Shatt al-Arab river in southern Iraq.
* Sha’ban is the eighth month of the lunar year.
* Samawah is the poet’s hometown. It is a city in Iraq, 280 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.



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