“Diary of the Silent”: A Poem by Housam Al-Mosilli
Diary of the Silent
- Housam Al-Mosilli is a poet, journalist, and translator from Syria. After being blacklisted and arrested three times, Housam fled Syria in 2012. As he traveled through the Middle East for the next four years, he wrote political pieces and poetry. He is now the current ICORN writer-in-residence in Linköping, Sweden, where he continues to write about politics in Syria in addition to working on short stories and a novel.
They ask us from afar: “Are you really okay?” We answer back: “If you only knew that this sea standing between us is nothing but the tears of our mothers and lovers, you would, at the very least, swim to us barefoot.”
In our land a modern caliph swings a sword and wears a Rolex. You can see this for yourself on YouTube, but you will have to wait for a few minutes for the clip to start—there is an exclusive commercial first for Xbox.
Sometimes they cut off the power in Istanbul because seagulls no longer laugh at night. Their leader is late for his usual joke time. His one mistake is that he wanted to visit his lover at the border of my country; a foolish sniper shot him dead thinking his heat of longing a thermal missile.
In our land,
after every cell of our bodies goes numb,
we look at the sun’s goodbye,
our entire lives flash before us in mere seconds.
We grieve. Not because we are dying,
but because tears will carve their canyons
on the cheeks of our mothers and loved ones.
the first kiss,
the first drunken daze,
took us by surprise.
And we ask: “Is there a way for us
to fill our lungs with nicotine one final time?”
We realize that life can be brief.
And when we listen to the wind,
we hear our dirt saying, “Live with dignity,
or leave with your eyes hugging the sun.”
Diary of the silent
could no longer sleep
the long night of anticipation.
Perhaps something will come by.
He might get caught lying
on the trunk of an almond tree.
A sniper’s bullet might take him by surprise,
Perhaps the news of a massacre
where deer and swallows were slaughtered
will leave him speechless.
Or perhaps his lover will come to him with a gasp of farewell
on their last bed
Exhausted from comforting
he puts his head under the pillow
escaping from the noise of this canned calm.
Does he read?
There is no time in this slow eternity
He makes a cup of black coffee,
and puts on a Fairouz song
“I trust you,” she says.
He smiles for the memory of a land that left him
forgetting that he
had trusted once before.
The steady beat bothers his ears.
He turns it off
He sips his coffee cold
and mutters to himself
“Perhaps I could find the sleepless sun of poetry.”
He rises like a dormant volcano
bored by silly tourists
he shakes the balcony curtains awake.
Fragments of a stray sunbeam strike him.
He screams: “Good God, I am blind.”
He moistens with tears the salt that clings to his cheeks.
And the curtains fall asleep one last time.
He falls to the ground
much farther away than a partisan country.
Like an eagle who hasn’t learnt to stop
he whispers to the cold cup:
“Blessed are the lost ,
they do not see the truth.”
To Attilio de Giovanni *:
You have to save my city.
If you don’t
the show will be over.
They will take the trees
And they will take the birds’ nests
from their Damascene homes.
They will dismantle doors, rooftop tiles, and chimney caps.
They will take the wheels of the vegetable cart.
—Nothing will remain—
As for me
I will not leave until I find the shoe lost at the mosque
where I prayed for a thief’s soul.
I will put it on and disappear.
*Attilio de Giovanni: The main character in The Tiger and the Snow (2005) by Italian Roberto Benigni.