Monday, March 12, 2012

tale of the assyrian statue - mahmoud al-buraikan

Tale of the Assyrian Statue
by Mahmoud al-Buraikan (tr. Lena Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye)

In a glass room
In a museum that squats
in a lost city that crouches
in a deserted land
on a vast continent
I live, elevated, confronting the eyes of men,
and paralyzing them.
At silence's end, I shake them off
the events of time, and the
terror of the ninth century.

Idol of Nineveh
Its Master.
In an inscrutable moment
My being emerged
to the echo of a chisel
in the hands of a sculptor
in the hall of stones and clay.

In terror, tribes of the dead
make me blood offerings.
How many voices
tremble with the nightmare in the cadence
of the chant
I was called many names
Scented with perfumes and essences,
Hung with rings
My eyes, two diamonds that pierce
the night,
come from mines whose secrets
no man has discovered.

Does Time admit to this memory?
I have seen the gentle moon
at night's beginning, heard the tumult
of the earthquake before the hour of ten.
I have seen the horses
invade women's cloisters
I saw the lances rise high
with skulls of men
I saw the sword's descent
I saw how the bride dances in the ceremony
of death,
and how suns extinguish
the storms of capitals.

Does Time admit to this memory?
The fall of castles and walls
drought and rains
wheat and iron
and the power of the sword, at which men stare
with awe, as it lies
in its leather scabbard?

Does Time admit
to that allusion?
The secret date for the death of a legend
and the beginning of an impossible undertaking,
the plagues of history,
cycles of unknown duration,
the blaze of fires coloring
faces, coloring the gardens and sky,
the will to power
the lust to destroy.

I have lost my jewels
been stripped of my rings,
my locks sheared
I've been rolled off my original base
moved from place to place
The owls and eagles spoke to me,
little boys climbed my ribs
A hammer was once tested on my body
I was tied with ropes,
dragged along, stretched out on my face,
behind a pair of mules.
Once I guarded a wall
Another time I stood at the gate of a palace
Marched in file in one of the armies,
Was abandoned in the desert,
spread out, to be washed by the gales,
for the hot sandstorms to dry out
my deepest chambers,
casting an eternal gaze,
my white sockets open
to the world of stars.

The sea recedes, only the shells remain
at the bottom of the earth
wind after wind
redistributes the red sands.
The ravens
have landed here, and meshed into the cycle of the horizon
Eagles' wings have fluttered
on my neck, then burned on the summits
of sand dunes.
Old wolves made a pillow of my body
as they passed by, fleeing to somewhere.
Caravans of thieves
took shade at my sides, where precious stones
left their mark, where ants built
the earthen kingdom of blind balance.

In the glass room
I stand erect, women stare
at my uncomplicated body,
(stare precisely at the center of the crotch)
children take delight
because my ear has fallen off, and my eyebrow is broken,
because in my chest
there is a gaping hole (so frightening in the light).
In the glass room
sound does not enter
the surface of death is not touched

Some men appear, and continue whispering,
perhaps about my left nail.
In the glass room
the worn-out fingers do not fall off
the sun does not penetrate, but the microscope does.
In the glass room alone
the solitary corpse stands erect.

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