Monday, February 7, 2011

The Dragon

A dictator, hiding behind a nihilist's mask,
has killed and killed and killed,
pillaged and wasted,
but is afraid, he claims,
to kill a sparrow.
His smiling picture is everywhere:
in the coffeehouse, in the brothel,
in the nightclub, and the marketplace.
Satan used to be an original,
now he is just the dictator's shadow.
The dictator has banned the solar calendar,
abolished Neruda, Marquez, and Amado,
abolished the Constitution;
he's given his name to all the squares, the open spaces,
the rivers,
and all the jails in his blighted homeland.
He's burned the last soothsayer
who failed to kneel before the idol.
He's doled out death as a gift or a pledge.
His watchdogs have corrupted the land,
stolen the people's food,
raped the Muses,
raped the widows of the men who died under torture,
raped the daughters and widows of his soldiers
who lost the war,
from which, like rabbits in clover fields,
they had run away,
leaving behind corpses of workers and peasants,
writers and artists,
twenty-year-old children,
carpenters and ironsmiths,
hungry and burned under the autumn sky,
all forcibly led to slaughter,
killed by invaders, alien and homegrown.
The dictator hides his disgraced face in the mud.
Now he is having a taste of his own medicine,
and the pillars of deception have collapsed,
his picture is now underfoot,
trampled by history's worn shoes.
The deposed dictator is executed in exile,
another monster is crowned in the hapless homeland.
The hourglass restarts,
counting the breaths of the new dictator,
lurking everywhere,
in the coffeehouse, the brothel,
in the nightclub, and the marketplace.


2
From the Caribbean to China's Great Wall,
the dictator-dragon is being cloned.
When will you do it, St George?


---"The Dragon", by the Iraqi poet Abd al-Wahhab Al-Bayyati (1926-1999) was originally published in 1996. The translation appearing on this page is by Farouk Abdel Wahab, Najat Rahman, and Carolina Hotchandani. It is from the volume Iraqi Poetry Today (ISBN 095338246X) (c) 2003, edited by Saadi Simawe.

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