Poetry by Faleeha Hassan

Life Spans

I loved my grandmother,

But she devoted herself to the family.

I loved my mother,

But she devoted herself to my father.

I loved my father,

But he devoted himself to the war.


Dawn hurts me.

Morning hurts me.

Afternoon hurts me.

Even night hurts me…and I say nothing.

Just a Question

Why do–

Whenever I open my window

On your smile–

You exude disappointment

Like a poem by Faleeha Hassan?

What Interests Me

I know there are men more tender than you

With eyes more protective than yours,

And more other things,

And . . . . . . .

But I’m not interested in the number of hydrogen bonds in molecules of water.

All I know is that without water, I’ll die of thirst

And I’m the same

Without you.

Letters Obviously Not Intended for Anyone Else

He said, “I love…”

And fell silent,

As if “you”

Were a word best left unspoken.

Another Question

How can I eulogize myself for you

Once I am dead?

Isn’t it enough that out of me you produce another me,

From you another you,

And from us other people?

Isn’t it enough

That the sky isn’t big enough for all the stars,

When we’re together?


During moments I yearned for forests grown for me alone,

Caressing them in a dream,

I could sense the throbbing of the heart

Hidden beneath my ribs to bless my journey.

Summoning me with a pulse that he recognizes in me.

I heard the noise of abandoned smoke from a moment of care

Join with me,

Forcefully traversing desires to the hidden-most one.

My spirit swung toward him,

Creating a tingling

On lips that devour breaths alive.

I felt ashamed,

But the eye,

In moments–I scarcely know what to call them–that took me on another route

Toward the television, saw warplanes…spray death on them.

At that moment,

The fire of machine guns raked all the bodies,

And another fire raked my body when I trained my eye on him

Hesitantly inclining his head

Toward a shoulder unaccustomed to the secret of the stars of war

Or to insomnia.

Oh…I leaned on it!

And when he caressed a dumbfounded person

I felt his fingers like coiling embers inside me.

Bashfulness seized the excuse this caress gave…and vanished,

Eliminating distance till the two of us were one.

And the eye–he moaned: May love not forgive her the eye–repeated another evasion

Toward a drizzle of men flung about in the air by just the rustling of a pilot penetrating a building

To fall on screens as the debris of breaking news.

But his breaths…shattering the still down of the cheek,

And turning their picture into mist as

Eddies of the screen’s corpses…varieties of death that they brought them.

The spirit that became a body,

The body that was sold for the sake of a touch,

The eye that was concealed in his image

And that approached the firebrand of conflagrations.

Everyone drawing close to everyone,




But the thunder of their machine guns splintered them:

Corpses piled on corpses,

I mean on me,

The eyes of those in it were extinguished.

They slept in a trench of silence.

My eyes’ lids parted in a wakefulness obsessed with them.

I rose…and embraced the chill

That the screens brought me in commemoration of Stalingrad.


Faleeha Hassan

Faleeha Hassan, who is currently in the United States, was born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1967.  She earned an M.A. in Arabic literature and has published several collections of poetry in Arabic: Being a Girl, A Visit to the Museum of Shade, Five Titles for My Friend-The Sea, Though Later On, Poems to Mother, Gardenia Perfume, and her collection of children’s poetry, The Guardian of Dreams. Her works of Arabic prose include Hazinia or Shortage of Joy Cells and Water Freckles (a novella). The first six poems featured here come from Qasa’id Ummi (Poems to Mother), which was published in 2010 by Dar al-Yanabia in Damascus, Syria. Her poems have been translated into English, Italian, German, French, and Kurdish. She has received awards from the Arab Linguists and Translators Association (WATA) and the Najafi Creative Festival for 2012, as well as the Prize of Naziq al-Malaika, the Prize of al-Mu’tamar for poetry, and the short story prize of the Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation. She serves on the boards of Baniqya, a quarterly in Najaf, Sada al Nahrain (Echo of Mesopotamia), and the Iraqi Writers in Najaf association. She is a member of the Iraq Literary Women’s Association, The Sinonu (i.e. Swift) Association in Denmark, the Society of Poets Beyond Limits, and Poets of the World Community.

William Hutchins

William Hutchins, who is based in North Carolina, was educated at Berea, Yale, and the University of Chicago. He twice has been awarded the National Endowment for the Arts grant for literary translation, first in 2005-2006 for his translation of The Seven Veils of Seth by the Libyan Tuareg author Ibrahim al-Koni (Garnet Publishing), and again in 2011-2012 for al-Koni's novel New Waw. His translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Banipal Magazine, and here in InTranslation. His translations of Arabic novels include Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, and Cairo Modern by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz (Anchor Books), Basrayatha by the Iraqi author Muhammad Khudayyir (Verso), The Last of the Angels (The Free Press), Cell Block 5 (Arabia Books), and The Traveler and the Innkeeper (American University in Cairo Press) by the Iraqi author Fadhil al-Azzawi, Return to Dar al-Basha by the Tunisian author Hassan Nasr (Syracuse), and Anubis (The American University in Cairo Press) and Puppet (Texas), also by Ibrahim al-Koni. His translations released in 2012 have been The Diesel by Thani al-Suwaidi (ANTIBOOKCLUB), Return of the Spirit by Tawfiq al-Hakim (revised edition, Lynne Rienner Publishers), The Grub Hunter by Amir Tag Elsir (Pearson: African Writers Series), and A Land Without Jasmine by Wajdi al-Ahdal (Garnet).

Qasa'id Ummi. Copyright (c) Faleeha Hassan, 2010. Stalingrad. Copyright (c) Faleeha Hassan, 2011. English translation copyright (c) William Hutchins, 2013.