Syria: Panoramas of loneliness and death

October 23 2013 Text: Racha Omran English translation: Christina Cullhed (from Jasim Mohamed's Swedish translation)

1
And nothing could have stopped this decomposition
I studied my body parts
spread all over the tiled floor
recognised my hand
recognised the parted toes
that had belonged to my left foot
recognised the birth mark high up on my back
the one I always paraded
each time I forgot my name.

I recognised the blood far down on the wall
I recognized the navel lying
like a discarded handkerchief under the bed

It was only the head with its details
the head fastened in front of the black screen
like a nail on an empty wall
Only this was strange to me.

2
Then I tried to plant life here
I tilled the earth and scattered details like seeds
Each morning I sprayed my moisture over the surface
And named each part
Perhaps they believed in these names as I did
Today—this very day—I noticed that my dwarfed plants
were all bent in one direction
towards the cemetery

3
On the tiled floor
on the pillow
on the bed
on the couch
on the keyboard
in the coffee cup
and no matter where I turn
I see
my tumbling hair
But looking in the mirror
I see a hedgehog
hiding her head
and just behind her the ruins
are watching her
with sheer schadenfreude.

4
I saw them walk towards me from the infant night
I saw them penetrate my silence like pilgrims
Recognizing their white belts
And the pale henna on their bodies
I recognised the shade of fear in their eyes
I recognised their surprised mouths
moving towards me from the first inkling of night
They bore no burdens
except the echoes of their rattling skeletons
groaning beneath the ruins
except the keys to the chambers
where they kept their rations of death.

5
I said:
I will open each window
I will light up all my candles
I will raise the volume of all the music I loveI will light the incense
But
as I rose
I shattered
like a celluloid doll
under a collapsed wall

6
They wouldn’t halt
though I called out to them
though I read the Beauty and the Beast for them
though I told them about the wisdom of the Indian sage
though I showed them all I had hidden from their sight—
they just marched on like ants ahead of me
and left behind a myriad of mumblings like a track to trace
to prevent me from falling
into my only death

7
I walked the streets
and crossed cities severed by roadblocks
read names of villages I recognised
sat on deserted pavements
unhindered I walked through the alleys of deserted villages
The sea close by
The desert close by
I climbed a hill
and walked down a rise
that stretched to heaven
but as I closed my eyes
I saw only a shadow
waver on the wall
of my almost darkened room.

8
They never noticed the ants
studying their particulars with surprise
while counting their scattered
arms and legs
collecting them
in the way ants
collect husks of grain

9
Buying a green pot plant
fixing a place for it in a corner
changing the soil every other day
sitting in front of it
studying how it slowly grows up towards the ceiling
counting its few leaves
moving it into another corner
switching on a light to give it room to breathe
switching off the light as a test
naming it after the people I have lost
so that it will remember its own name
caressing it before sleeplessness writhes within
caressing it after the morning’s mares
—does not mean that I am nourishing a hope
it means only that I am nurturing my own loneliness.

10
There is a head in the top drawer
a body in the next
two legs in the third
Under the bed two whole hands
Big blotches of blood on the walls
Only the warm heartmanaged to escape
through the open window

11
It shuts down the screen
switches on the radio
plays with the keyboard
lights the screen again
writes some words of love
erases them
picks up the mobile
finds a well-known name
and shuts it down
It drums rhythmically on the table
holding the coffee cup
lights a cigarette and stubs it out
lies down on the cold cheek
scratches the unruly skin
dries the trace of a tear on the cheek
writing more wet words of love

The hand shattered by a bomb
a few days ago
has still not lost its memories

12
I trace their steps
follow the colours of their feet on the asphalt
follow the smells of their body parts on the pavements
look at the stains of their surprise on the cobblestones
counting the remains of their shadows on the walls
in order not to lose my mastery at testing the light
But they—they open the doors to the underworld every day and disappear
While I commute alone between their doors
Crying like a lonely cat at night in a demolished city

13
No one came that day
though I waited long
and prepared a place for them
rolling out my memory
like a carpet on the stairs
hanging my heart on the door
to save them from going astray
I waited long
but no one came that day
I should have noticed
which part of me the worms devoured
To lure my anticipation
I should have realised then too
that they lost their way
and would instead come
another day

14
Everything and everyone is gone
The daughters
The sons
The husband
The parents’ blessings
The ancestors’ old photographs
A few toys still wet
by a childhood lisp
The pillows and mats with traces
of familiar conversations
All is gone
Nothing remains
except the lingering smell of their last cups of tea
and a mirror reflecting their departure
on those damned trucks

15
I should have nestled up
like a foetus in a dry uterus
should have lifted my head
to learn to face the emptiness
should have drawn arrows in my eyes
to point me to a time I have not yet known
should have let my hand move
over the walls pressing hard down on me
to invent a space for myself
that would protect me from shrinking
I should have wiped the dust
from my predecessors’ imaginations
to avoid getting used to my face
should have listened to the echoes of their groans
to avoid losing my hearing
should have asked for a wad of cotton
to be passed through the gap under the door
to dry my skin
to shield me from hatred
I should have grown accustomed to the touch of the worms
each time I plucked a hair from my faded trousers
I should have become familiar with the feeling of sand on my skin
and taken it as a token rehearsal of my womanliness
I should have believed in it all and learnt it off by heart
as if it were my favourite movement
only to discover that I am my friend
inside her
isolation cell