new zealand electronic poetry centre

Basim Furat


Basim Furat, born in 1967, is an Iraqi poet living in exile in Wellington. He has published two collections of poetry in Arabic and has had work published also in French, Spanish and English across more than fifteen countries. He is hoping to bring out his first book in English early next year. Basim writes modern verse and his work focuses on childhood, exile, war, painful memories, love and family. He performs in New Zealand and overseas, and is the New Zealand co-ordinator of Joussour, an Australian-based journal of Arabic/English literature whose title means ‘bridges’ in Arabic.

Infinitely South

And I say: In the far away
There is something calling for remembrance
In the cities exhausted by the sea
I dump my dreams
I have souvenirs from wars
And from cities’ wounds
I have the tears of reeds,
The sighs of date trees,
The revelation of oranges
The blood of myrtle 
There on the map of my childhood
I left an innocence pierced 
By the rot of the military 
The barracks stole from home
And threw me to exile

God and I are alone
There is an eternity seeking shelter in me
And forgetfulness abandons me
Leaving the smell of bombardment in the corridors of my life
And in the far away I say:
War takes me by surprise and sweeps away my happiness
All I catch is a mirage
Without a passport
The Euphrates ignites its waves for me
All things point to you
But nothing reminds me of you 
The heaven bends for you to cross
A thread of butterflies awaits at your door
Far-reaching singing of birds 
And a transparent coo touches the paper
And in the whiteness of it all there’s a long revelation
And I say: in the south there is a south

The woman of forty ignores that
My father was the most cheerful of all the murdered
His bravery left us with hunger and the gloating of others
And through thirty lunar years my mother waited
Until she herself became waiting
Childhood that was darkened by poverty and orphanage
Is here scoffing at me
At my life now darkened by war and exile
Wherever I lie, I find the Euphrates lying beside me
Extending its dreams to me
Dreams crammed with bombs and sirens
I wake up and roam the streets
Weakened by memories
Exchanging bombs’ splinters with roses and poems
The aggression of bombardment with Mulla Othman Al Mousilly’s lute
And the Maqams of al Gubbanchi

For the sea made wet by the songs of sailors 
Tears resting on its shores
Keeping lovers and children amused,
Shells falling asleep on the eyelids of the waves
And rocks reclining on its waist 
Counting the wishes falling from those passing

War also has its songs
Those that drenched the bosoms of mothers
With wailing and anxiety
Windows wide open for waiting
With no-one approaching
Doors eroded by sadness 
And whose steps are crumbling
Dreams dragged along the streets 
Oh streets, when will I see . . . 
The death procession of my grief?
Pale streetlights exhausted by the frost

And for war . . . 
Bombs whose heads rest on 
The pillows of our bodies
And sleep inside us
The murdered in their pockets
Sparrows fight the morning
And play with an orphan star forgotten by the night
Letters flow with the dawn

And I say:
Oh gasp of the south
Oh son of the sun
And the rivers whose mouths spit catastrophe
Just as prophets and holy books emanated from you
Wars have always failed you 
And you found yourself outside the borders of home
And once you thought of home
You were swallowed by exile
You blow your years and ashes is what you find
And scared that your dignity might be buried 
Every night you have a party 
For the Tigris in the farthest south
There’s no south behind me so I can say: 
Here’s my homeland
Nor is there south in front of me to cut through
I am the absolute south
Equipped with a long history of war and tragedy

Glories polluted by the whips of the governor 
And the general’s ribbons of ‘honour’
Stripped me naked in the forbidden land
My night is filled with details of the barracks
The nighttimes password
The officer on duty
And the death squads

All the women I’ve known
And all women
Whose lust I am going to poison
With my foolishness
Have sniffed the neigh of hurdles in my breath
And my hallucinations
Have provoked their femininity
In the night’s darkness

And I say:
Oh gasp of the two rivers
To shake hands with my alienation
Should I set my roots on fire?
And cast thirty years out to the sea
To make a feast for the fish
Do I have to take off my shirt
Which is full of bombs,
Insults and sanctions
To be embraced by …
A sky that doesn’t belong to me
And I say:
Oh gasp of the two rivers 
In the far away cities
There is something calling for remembrance
In the distant lands exhausted by the sea
I dump my dreams
I have souvenirs from wars
And from cities wounds.

© Basim Furat 2003

Last updated 15 July, 2003