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A Song for the Lightning Bird

أغنية لطائر البرق
by Ra’ad Abdul Qadir
Translated from Arabic by
Mona Kareem
نم هادئاً
سبع شجيرات ورد يحرسن نومك
وطائر يصفر لحناً سماوياً
:نم هادئاً
دع النهاية مفتوحة
وأغلق الباب جيداً، وإن قرعوا لا تفتح
القصيدة قرب رأسك وقدح الماء
وطائر البرق في نومك
هل رأيت أحداً في الحديقة؟
وإن قرعوا لا تفتح
دع النهاية مفتوحة
وأغلق الباب جيداً وإن قرعوا لا تفتح
نم هادئاً، هادئاً

Sleep quiet and safe
seven rose bushes will guard your sleep
and a bird whistling a heavenly tune,
Sleep quiet:
Keep the ending open
and shut the door tight,
and if they knock,
Do not open,
the poem is by your head, the glass of water,
and the lightning bird is in your sleep,
have you seen someone in the garden?
Still, if they knock, do not open,
Keep the ending open,
Shut the door tight,
and still if they knock,
Sleep quiet,
and safe.




“Ughniya Li Ta’ir al-Barq” from the collection Ṣaqr fawqa raʼsahu shams; ʻAṣr al-taslīyah. Baghdad: al-Mada, 2006.

Ra'ad Abdul Qadir is a pioneer of the Iraqi “prose poem,” the author of five poetry collections, and a lifelong editor of the literary magazine Aqlam. Two of Qadir’s collections were published after his death, after he suffered a heart attack in 2003. He also left a booklength manuscript that hasn’t yet been published.
Mona Kareem is a poet, translator, and professor based in New York. She is the author of three poetry collections, some of which were translated into French, English, Spanish, Dutch, German, Farsi, Italian, and Kurdish. She holds a PhD in comparative literature from SUNY Binghamton and teaches literature and film. She has been a fellow at the Norwich Writers’ Center and Banff Center. Her translations include Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within, which was nominated for the 2017 BTBA awards.