The spring of blood and ashes

“Blood and ash from the stolen Arabian spring / have penetrated the mornings, evenings and nights,” writes Syrian poet Bandar Abdulhamid in his collection of poems. The brutal reality of Syria is bleeding on the surface. The only thing left to do is wait for the coming spring. 

September 10 2014 Text: Bandar Abdulhamid Translation from Arabic: Emad AlAhmad

Early in the morning
Before the last star has faded
I ask my coffee cup what the latest news is
The news of massacres and weather
Here and in distant cities and villages
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Air forces bombing the edges of the city
Missiles flying off from neighbouring gardens
Barrel bombs demolishing houses over families' heads
Killers—here and there—
Playing with steel and fire
Over our heads.
Threatened with disaster
In this earthquake of barrel bombs
The table trembles
The pen falls out of my hand
And the coffee cup explodes on the floor
To paint a demolished city
An eastern Guernica and a black river
A mural of blood and ashes
In the painting a beautiful family sleeps
Who died in silence
Died out of hatred and toxic gases
—mustard or sarin?
A girl holding a dead doll to her chest
Her other hand on her mother's chest
Her mother's chest on the father’s face
The father's head on the son's chest
The son's head in grandma's embrace
And grandma with an unfathomable smile

T.S. Eliot measured his life in coffee cups
Now we measure our lives in exploded barrels
Only a few years ago
We measured our lives in love and dancing
Under the moonlight and in all seasons
Love, laughter, dancing have disappeared from our streets
From our houses
From our squares and old bazars
And the Arab Spring is born
Along with blood and ashes
From behind the black curtains
The grave ghosts have appeared—
The fourth generation of the mafia of violence and crime

More than eighty years ago
The Muslim Brotherhood was propagating
Disseminating in every direction
New gangs born under different names
New faces, new masks, new cloaks
Calling for murder before prayer
And after prayer
Raising the black flags in the face of the world
Flags of blood and ashes

“What is happening here?” asks my coffee cup
A crazy joint celebration of death
Between military militias
And gangs of murder and takfir
The grandsons of the Muslim Brotherhood
Partners of Boko Haram, ISIS, Bin Laden
What can we do
Within this historical celebration of killing?

Here we are on the third floor
Since the days of the Cold War
Birds and animals and us
In a wide prison open to tumultuous ruin
Between colorful beards and embalmed militarism
With annoying slogans and patriotic songs
Black beards for fire
Red beards for killing
Blue beards for cholera
—An old Arab poet once wished
For beards to be green grass
To feed the hungry horses
Freedom leads people to death
In the streets in the squares and inside houses
Where bullets fly from every corner

Scientists in the brave new world
Search for water on distant planets
Study endangered fish and colorful birds
In the street of gunpowder and tall barricades
I, with my beautiful friend Zahra
And my smart small friend Hala,
Live in the center of Damascus just like hostages
We hear and see everything
Silent like ants or spiders
Like the great statues at the face of the mountains
We wait for love and freedom under the moonlight
But we're losing
At the round table
Of the Security Council
Where the fingers of Veto sometimes rise
Against freedom
While we are busy with murder and destruction
With thirst, horror, national depression
With sorceries of religion and of politics

Religion loses its old meaning:
Peace on Earth
Politics loses its three colors:
Science, Art, and Ethics

Arab retardation in a bloody battle
With Salafi retardation
They remember the Battle of the Camel
But that story has forgotten
That the victims are the people
Mullahs and soldiers meet
To discuss
A dialogue amongst civilizations; with the west
But if you, black raven
Are not civilized
What is the point of a dialogue with you?

The murderers who destroyed the twin towers in New York City
Hated dance and cinema
Hated music and modern architecture
From the legendary Bauhaus
To the legend of Zaha Hadid
(who defies gravity)
They studied in Hamburg
How to take off from Boston
But never learnt how to land at airports
Before they smashed both planes into both towers
They were rushing to land with their Batman wings
In the promised paradise in the seventh heaven
To feast their first dinner with the angels
And with the nymphs swimming in rivers
In the land of champagne, milk, and honey
—After having sent thousands of victims to hell

They were deprived of love and freedom
They never knew smiles and warm kisses
A stranger’s finger touching their own
They never knew Jazz and A Thousand and One Nights
They dropped off elementary school
Studied hatred and the culture of suicide
In caves of bronze

A blind man leading—by the beard—another into the abyss
The beard of goats and the beard of gorillas or the beard of Bin Laden
In the empire of eastern stupidity
Where generals and mullahs meet
In a cat-and-mouse game
In the deserts of locusts, takfir, and crime
Human beings from an anonymous era
Eat and drink and do nothing
But pray and murder
—blood and ashes in the stolen Arab Spring—
In mornings, in evenings, and at midnight
They spread hatred and terror among their fellow humans
The new generation of lying shepherds
Taliban, ISIS, Ansar al-Sharia
Al Nusra, the Houthis
Dozens of names
In Libya, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Somalia
Planting old diseases in the ancient East
Fighting to achieve the unity of retardation
Planning for a new crusade
Or a third world war
With weapons of mass destruction
Blowing up planes, trains, and ships
Suspended bridges and the most beautiful towers in the world
They are here and there
They fly to all continents
Awaken sleeper cells
And plant new ones
They dream of stealing nuclear weapons
They cross borders and mountains
From Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon
To Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Egypt
To Nigeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Mauritania
On all five continents
They are children and partners of murderers
Past and present
Murderers of Abraham Lincoln, Trotsky, Gandhi
Of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King
Indira Gandhi and Olof Palme
More than twenty-five symbols
Of culture, intellect, and press in Lebanon

Wild roses have disappeared from the fields
Roses yellow or purple or rainbow-like
Roses like lipstick or cranberries
Fit for Valentine's Day, for freedom and beauty
Migrating birds have changed their routes in space
Have changed their places of rest and love making
Between longitude and latitude
Along the roads of silk, spices, and love
Discovered by thin graceful birds
Like ballet dancers

No one knows how many victims
How many prisoners, captives, hostages
How many victims of the secret laws:
“If you are not with me I will kill you
And if you are with me you should die defending me
Power is our home country
Or our home country is power.”
Victims of the surreal fatwas
Of the middle ages of the east:
“It is forbidden to look at women
Or even dream of them
It is forbidden to smile or gaze at the clouds
It is forbidden to see the most beautiful thighs in the new world
Women are closed and abandoned sacks of coal
And children are small bags of dirt.”

We forgot how to swim in the sea and climb the mountains
We forgot how to swim against the river stream
How to discover enchanted forests
We forgot laughter, geography, beauty
The top hundred films in the history of cinema
Walt Whitman’s democracy
In Leaves of Grass
Ornate eastern stupidity threatens life on earth
The new Caliph climbs up the podium of a mosque in Mosul
Or in Raqqa or Shiraz
With a vampire's beard
And declares jihad against the whole wide world
A poisoned sword in his hand
To behead Scheherazade and Mother Teresa

Medieval myths have returned
With diseases old and new
Polio, young Alzheimer's, and national depression
With cholera, TB, cancer, AIDS, and Koruna
But the new Spanish Inquisition will kill without trial
With Salafis, mullahs, militias, militarism
In a Shakespearian tragicomedy
And the small global village is turned into a suffocating stage
Citizens of all classes
Killed in their homes and in peaceful demonstrations
In the streets and in old markets
In mosques, churches, on public roads
Random shells and cluster bombs
Chemical weapons and car bombs
—With all this and that
Here we are, reading, writing, and drawing
We drink coffee in the early morning
Before the stars disappear
We wait for a spring
Without black flags and patriotic songs