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Hilma Af Klint, The Swan, 1915. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet.

Language: Kurdish (Sorani)
Poet: Zhawen Shali
Translator: Arash Saleh & Holly Mason Badra
Region: Kurdistan


I had to follow pages of the age

Two poems by Zhawen Shali, translated from Kurdish (Sorani) by Arash Saleh and Holly Mason Badra


I am the shadow of those days—
the days the sun forgot
to radiate through the windows.

I linked arms with the sky
and touched my lips to the flames of the fire.
Dreams are replaced with leaving
and poetry is revisiting a familiar cadaver
in an oppressive headline of news.
I am deprived of land
and tired of war.

You were water—
I should have let you go.
The moment it is dislodged,
heavier becomes
the rock.

I am your broken mirror.
What are you looking at?
In a thousand different pieces?

If it wasn’t for your absence
I wouldn’t be waiting so many years.
I wouldn’t bang my head in the endless spinning streets.

I wouldn’t pass through countries to follow you.
I wouldn’t cry on an airplane.

You said you will be back.
The church bells sounded three times.

Pilgrims circled Mecca.
In the square, four hundred lights were lit to welcome you.

Childhood becomes 13 alleys
in front of each there stands a vendor of chocolates.
Joseph who was supposed to send us a piece of his coat
has not arrived.
And Jacob, in his small hut,
was listening to the complaints of Ahmad Shamal.


من سێبه‌ری ئه‌و رۆژانه‌م
هه‌تاو بیری چۆته‌وه‌
به‌په‌نجه‌ره‌یانا تێپه‌ڕێت

قۆڵم له‌ قۆڵی ئاسمان گیركردووه‌و
له‌وم له‌ گه‌مه‌ی ئاگردا
،خه‌ون پڕه‌ له‌ جێهێشتن
شیعریش بینینه‌وه‌ی لاشه‌ی ئاشنایه‌كه‌
،له‌سه‌ردێڕی دڵته‌زێنی هه‌واڵێكدا
بێبه‌رییم له‌ زه‌وی
..ماندوو له‌ جه‌نگ

ئاو بوویت
ئه‌بوایه‌ لێگه‌ڕێم بڕۆیت
كه‌له‌جێی خۆی هه‌ڵكه‌نرێت

ئاوێنه‌ی شكاوی تۆم
ته‌ماشای چی ده‌كه‌یت؟
خۆت له‌هه‌زار پارچه‌ی جیاوازدا

گه‌ر نه‌هاتنت نه‌بوایه‌
ئه‌و هه‌موو ساڵه‌ چاوه‌ڕوان نه‌ده‌مام
سه‌ری خۆم به‌ پیاسه‌ی ناكۆتای شه‌قامه‌كان

وڵاتانم به‌دوتا ته‌ی نه‌ده‌كردو
ته‌نانه‌ت له‌ناو فڕۆكه‌یشدا بۆت

گوتت ده‌گه‌ڕێمه‌وه‌
زه‌نگه‌كانی كڵیسا سێجار لێیاندا

موسوڵمانان به‌ده‌وری مه‌ككه‌دا ته‌وافیان به‌ست
،له‌مه‌یدان چوار سه‌د چرا بۆ پێشوازیت داگیرسان

مناڵی له‌به‌رده‌م سیانزه‌ كۆڵانی جیاوازدا چۆكلێتی راخست و
یوسف كه‌ هه‌ر قه‌رار بوو پارچه‌یه‌ك له‌ كراسه‌كه‌ی
بۆ ماڵی ئێمه‌ بنێرێت
نه‌گه‌یشت و
ئه‌یوبیش له‌ كووخه‌ چكۆلانه‌كه‌ی خۆیدا
..گوێی بۆ گله‌ییه‌كانی ئه‌حمه‌د شه‌ماڵ رادێرا

A Night With No Country

To get used to this new world
is not the problem.
Getting used to life
is not that simple.
I have always said so.

If the cosmos is the magical fun of God,
then we are, in the best scenario,
heroes of a circus…

Sisyphus is carrying the corpse of the future
expecting a miracle to become eternal.
But life is a sharp nail under the tongue of those days—
the days that enforce silence.

This is why sometimes, just like a mischievous child,
you need to throw stones at God’s windows
and wrestle with flames.

Just like a gracious dolphin, smile at life,
and do not be astonished
if the ocean is a sword
that sacrifices you
in the name of honor.

Life is a homeless night
carried on the back of an alley
and I am an adrift cat…

Listen night!
You need to kneel
in front of the warm steps of dawn
in order for everyone to recognize
tomorrow is not just another day.

“Another day” may be only a concept
absconded from the dictionary of deception
into the language of cosmos.
I am devoid of…
I am destiny.

Do you remember those nights?
Hanging in there,
you were just like a backpack on my shoulder?

Through strange ups and downs,
inside the jail,
there existed another jail
that introduced multiple shadows to my being.

The path was not an alley
with an opening for escape.
But I was a sparrow
being passed over by clouds
inside the interior of a cold and dark small room
painting the walls with your voice.
Where were you?

I had a huge risk to take.
I poured blood into the veins of time
without a prize in sight.
I was a fish
that was betrayed by the hubris and coquetry of the seagulls.
I had to cut off my tail
from the claws of that frantic swamp
and go.
I had to wear the ice of this experience
and not burn.
I had to follow pages of the age.
And go!
And fall!
off the displaced cheeks of motherland.
Not to be tears of regret
and not to wither.

شەوێکی بێماڵ

مەسەلەکە راهاتن بەو دنیا نوێیەوە نییە
هەر خۆی راهاتن بە ژیانەوە
،کارێکی ئاسان نییە
من هەمیشە ئەوەم گوتووە

گەردوون گەمە سیحرئامێزەکەی خودایە و
ئێمەیش لە باشترین حاڵەتدا
..پاڵەوانی سێرکین

سیزیفێک تەرمی ئایندەی داوە بەکۆڵیا و
..چاوەڕوانی پەرجوویەکە بۆئەوەی نەمر بێت
بەڵام ژیان بزمارێکی تیژە لەژێر زمانی ئەو رۆژانەی
کە دەبێت بێدەنگ بیت

بۆیە هەندێکجار دەبێت وەک مناڵێکی عەجول
بەرد بگریتە ماڵی خودا و
،دەست و پەنجەت لەگەڵ ئاگر نەرم بکەیت

بە وێنەی میهرەبانیی دۆلفینێک بۆ ژیان پێبکەنیت و
بەلاتەوە سەیر نەبێت
رووبار شمشێرێکی نێرینە بێت و
بە تاوانی شەرەفەوە
..سەرت ببڕێت

ژیان شەوێکی بێ ماڵەو
بەسەر پشتی کۆڵانەوە
..من پشیلەیەکی ئاوارەم

ئەی شەو
لەژێر پێی گەرمی سپێدەیەکا
بەچۆکا بێ، تا هەمووان ئەوە بزانن
سبەی رۆژێکی تر نییە

رۆژێکی تر مومکینە تەنێ چەمکێک بێت
لە فەرهەنگی فریوەوە دزەی کردبێتە نێو زوبانی گەردوونەوە و
من بێبەریم

لەبیرتە ئەو شەوانەی
وەک کۆڵەپشتێک
بەشانمەوە خۆت هەڵواسیبوو

خەرەندگەلی نامۆت پێ بڕیم و
لەنێو زیندانا
زیندانی ترت دروست دەکرد
مرۆڤگەلی هەمەچەشنت هێنایە وجودمەوە و

رێگا کۆڵانێک نەبوو
دەریچەی دەرچوونی هەبێ

بەڵام من چۆلەکەیەک بووم
بەرپێی هەورەکان کەوتبووم و
لە هەناوی ساردی ژوورۆچکەیەکی تەریکدا
دیوارەکانم بەدەنگی تۆ رەنگ کردبوو
تۆ لەکوێ بوی؟؟

ریسکی گرەوێک بووم
خوێنی بردنەوەم کردبووە کاسەی کاتژمێری ئەو رۆژانەوە
ونبوون میقاتی کردبوون
ماسییەک بووم
غروور و نازی نەورەسەکان
،لەخشتەیان بردبووم
ئەبوایە کلکی خۆم لە چنگ دڵەڕاوکێی ئەم زۆنگاوە
رابپسکێنم و
بۆ ژیان ئەبوایە بەستەڵەکی ئەم ئەزموونە بپۆشم و
بەشوێن هەڵدانەوەی لاپەڕەی عومردا
بڕۆم و
بەسەر گۆنای ئاوارەی نیشتیمانەوە
ئەسرینی حەسرەت نەبم و

ئەبوایە رێگا وێڵت بکا و
لەیەکەمین بینینەوە
،وەک چاویلکە لەچاوت کەم
ئەبوایە لە تیری قەدەرەوە دەرچم و
چوون سروودی نیشتیمانی
..ئەڤینت لەبەر بکەم

Zhawen Shali is a Kurdish poet and journalist. She was born in 1986 in the city of Suleimani in Southern Kurdistan. She graduated from Sulemani Polytechnic University and worked as a journalist for several Kurdish outlets. She published her first book, The Autumn of My Life, in 2008. Her second book, Neither You Nor Rain Stayed, was published in 2013 by the Kurdish Writers Union in Erbil. She has won several national and international prizes in literature. She currently lives in the US.

Arash Saleh is a Kurdish activist who currently lives in the US. He was born in 1981 in Eastern Kurdistan. He studied law in Iran and political science in the United States. He started his activities as a journalist in Sanandaj. He is currently involved in advocacy for the rights of Kurdish people.

Holly Mason Badra received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University. Her poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews appear in the Adroit Journal, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, the Northern Virginia Review, Foothill Poetry Journal, UA Poetry Center Blog, the Rumpus, CALYX, So to Speak, and elsewhere. She has been a panelist for OutWrite, RAWIFest, and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here as a Kurdish-American poet. Holly is currently on the staff of Poetry Daily and lives in Northern Virginia with her wife and dog.

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