Don't Light the Candles

by Yahia Al-Samawy

Don’t light the candles, Shahrazad
Shahriyar lays waste a town a night
He bathes his madness in its blood
He pours fires into the vessels of peace.
Leave the country
There is famine in Basra
The plague in Baghdad
And on the roads the secret police and an ill will
Throw the mirrors away—
The mirrors of the times are tarnished in the captive cities
Be on your guard—
The Mamluks are chasing me
I rejected the statutes of invaders and since then
They have made legal the violation of my body
They have inspected my eyes looking for yours, my beloved.
They have inspected my throat
Because I reviled dearth and plague
And the idol
And time on the run from the graveyard of time
So be on your guard—
Hide the jewel of your eyes—
For this is a time in which love and country are stolen.
Throw the mirrors away
Wash the remnants of sleep from your eyelids
Don’t light the candles, Shahrazad—
Light and darkness have become one and the same
In a land ruled by the graven image
Don't Light the Candles

* * *

Don’t light the candles—
The night, my beloved, is a graveyard
The lover the corpse
And the morning, my beloved,
Is the shroud.

Translated by Eva Sallis

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About Yahia Al-Samawy

Yahia Al-Samawy's picture

Born in Samawa, Iraq, al-Samawy graduated from al-Mustansyriah University in Baghdad. He worked in teaching, and in journalism. His poems have been published in both the Arabic and Australian media. A selection of his poems have been translated into English by Eva Sallis, and published by Picaro Press under the title “Two Banks with No Bridge”. He also has poems that have been translated by Dr. Saleh Jawad Altema, Dr. Raghid Nahas, and Ann Forborne., Al-Samawy has participated in Arab and international poetry festivals, and has been awarded a number of prizes for his work, among them: Jaezat Al Multaka Al-thakafy Al Araby in Abha, Yemen and Jaezat Ebn Turkey for recognition of poetic achievements, which was sponsored by the Union of Arabic Nations. He currently lives in Australia