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Sinan Antoon Sinan Antoon studied literature at Baghdad University before moving to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He earned degrees in Arab studies at Georgetown and Arabic literature at Harvard. Antoon is the author of two poetry books, The Baghdad Blues and A Prism: Wet with Wars, and a novel, I`jam, and his poems, essays, and translations have appeared in publications throughout the Arab and English-speaking world, as well as in German, French, Italian, and Bosnian/Croatian translations. In 2003, as a member of InCounter Productions, he returned to his native Baghdad to codirect and produce the documentary About Baghdad, exploring the lives of Iraqis in postSaddam occupied Iraq. A contributing editor to Banipal and a member of the editorial committee of Middle East Report, Antoon is currently an assistant professor at New York University. Wrinkles: on the wind’s forehead 1 the wind is a blind mother stumbling over the corpses no shrouds save the clouds but the dogs are much faster 2 the moon is a graveyard for light the stars women wailing 49 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 49 3 the wind was tired from carrying the coffins and leaned against a palm tree A satellite inquired: Whereto now? the silence in the wind’s cane murmured: “Baghdad” and the palm tree caught fire 4 the soldier’s fingers scrape and scrabble like question marks or sickles they search the womb of the wind for weapons . . . nothing but smoke and depleted uranium 5 how narrow is this strait which sleeps between two wars but I must cross it 50 Sinan Antoon 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 50 6 My heart is a stork perched on a distant dome in Baghdad its nest made of bones its sky of death 7 This is not the first time myths wash their face with our blood (t)here they are looking in horizon’s mirror as they don our bones 8 war salivates tyrants and historians pant a wrinkle smiles on the face of a child who will play during a break between wars 9 The Euphrates is a long procession Cities pat its shoulders as palm trees weep Sinan Antoon 51 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 51 10 The child plays in time’s garden but war calls upon her from inside: come on in! 11 The grave is a mirror into which the child looks and dreams: when will I grow up and be like my father . . . dead 12 the Tigris and Euphrates are two strings in death’s lute and we are songs or fingers strumming 13 For two and a half wars I’ve been here in this room whose window is a grave that I’m afraid of opening there is a mirror on the wall when I stand before it 52 Sinan Antoon 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 52 naked my bones laugh and I hear death’s fingers tickling the door 14 I place my ear on the belly of this moment I hear wailing I put it on another moment: —the same! A Photograph (Of an Iraqi Boy on the Front Page of the New York Times) he sat at the edge of the truck (eight or nine years old?) surrounded by his family: his father, mother, and five siblings were asleep his head was buried in his hands all the clouds of the world were waiting on the threshold of his eyes the tall man wiped off the sweat and started digging the seventh grave Sinan Antoon 53 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 53 A Letter Silently I address them The dead Iraqis Where do we stand now? Give or take a few hundred thousands? . . . . . . . . Had you been birds, your disappearance might have caused some outrage You could have flown en masse over a metropolis, clouded its skies for a few hours in protest. Meteorologists and bird-watchers surely would have noticed Had you been trees, you would have made a beautiful forest whose destruction would have been deemed a crime against the planet. Had you been words, you would have formed a precious book or manuscript whose loss would be mourned across the world But you are none of these And you had to pass quietly and uneventfully No one...


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