In a place where memories are not cherished

I am in a place where memories are not cherished / I sprout in the dark / I germinate badly / I own a tear-stained vision / Poisonous enough to wound you with my words.

Rasha Alqasim, exile writer from Iraq, writes a furious, desperate poem about displacement and its aftermath  

September 11 2018 Rasha Alqasim, translation by Christina Cullhed

Rasha Alqasim is an Iraqi poet and media graduate. She has been translated into Swedish language by publishing house 10TAL and her first book was published in Arabic by publishing house-Almotawasitin Milan. She was awarded the Prince Wilhelm Prize 2018 by Swedish Pen. 
She has also participated in several cultural projects, including the “Joint History” project, exhibited at the Färgfabriken exhibition and will be exhibited in Riga and Gdansk this year. Rasha Alqasim is working on her second book. 


Looking for broken doors 

From forgotten and frightening corners 

Exploring the doors 

And all the hands that passed over me. 

At the inheritor’s house 

once had a room 

With a broken door 

A door like a writing tablet 

To draw hearts on, shot through by arrows. 

A hideout for pictures of my favourite singer 

A place to hide nail polish 

A place to hide coloured crayons 

A place even for refuse 


Refuse others tossed and I took 

Refuse I lost and others caught hold of 

Refuse we took from one another 

Refuse others stole from us 

Refuse we snatched from one another and never gave back 


Who found my room near the roof of the house? 

The roof that once was 

A hideout for mother’s shoes that I neglected 

A hideout for girls engraved on the wall 

With bouquets of roses and broad smiles. 


Everything around me is changed 

In some way, 

The door where my father made marks 

To keep track of my mistakes 

And because I am forgetful 

never cared 

I didn’t mind at all 

That this door 

Was not merely closed. 


Everything around me is changed 

The garden—now a diminished desert 

The house—an abandoned skeleton  

my bed—a library 

my empty notebooks have become an aeroplane 

and the family a meagre poem. 


seek the broken doors from behind 

Look for your home in my memories 

Look through your memories for my home 


search for the farm demolished by a tank 

For splitter in the door 

For spall in the glass 

For shards in our food 

And for splinter in the heart of a dead “Razqia 

In the holy ground, and all the water that we sprinkled over it 


look for my memories in your homes 

Who found the picture of the singer I love? 

Who found the forbidden nail varnish? 

Who found my mother’s shoes? 

For which I grew up 

And abandoned under the sun for many years. 


Who has found my mistakes on the door and erased them? 

Who has erased the prison? 

Just to celebrate me with an even bigger one— 

Who has found the old notebooks? 

And punished me with a poem? 

Who opened the hairband? 

Only to sprout a simple bliss? 


My bag of hay— 

Where I hid my keys 

To the rooms sealed by hatred 


One attempt to extend our home 

This hallowed space inhabited by ruins— 

Who stole it? 

Who said the wrong word? 

Before discovering 

That there was nothing of interest to pillage: 

only to turn and go? 


I am in a place where memories are not cherished 

I sprout in the dark 

I germinate badly 

I own a tear-stained vision 

Poisonous enough to wound you with my words.