How I wish he had not died
in last Wednesday's raid
as he strolled through Nazlat al-Bir —
my friend with blond hair,
as blond as a native of the wetlands of Iraq.
Like a woman held spellbound at her loom,
all summer long the war was weaving its warp and weft.
And that song, O Beiruuuuut!,
sang from every single radio
in my father's house in Al-Karama —
and probably in our old house in Beit Jala
(which, whenever I try to find it in the maze of the camp,
refuses to be found).
That song sang of what we knew —
it sang of our streets, narrow and neglected,
our people cheek by jowl in the slums made by war.
But the song did not sing about that summer in Beirut,
it did not tell us what was coming —
aeroplanes, bombardment, annihilation…
The song was singing while my friend from Iraq —
who'd thought I was Moroccan from the countryside there —
limped bleeding to his death…
His blond hair will never fade,
a beam of light seared into memory.
Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah