Before My Friend Got Killed

BY FALEEHA HASSAN

Dedicated to my friend Mason Hassan Kamuna who was killed during the Iraq-Iran war in 1985.

The sky actually was blue 

The streets were more spacious 

Women were sitting on the thresholds of their houses in the afternoon 

Telling amazing stories to each other 

The cafes were full of men’s laughter 

My father smiles as he tells her

Don’t take Faleeha to the hair salon

Give your hair the color of the sun

And leave the glamour of night to my daughter’s hair 

She smiles back and says   

Her name is not poetic

If it were me, I would change it 

We all laugh 

My mother was more compassionate 

She would say  

Eat from one plate so your emotions will not be lost

And like ants on a candy bar, we would gather together 

Oh, my friend 

After your death 

The world wore a garment of dust 

The war had swept away the thresholds of our homes 

Women now wear worries 

Permanent sadness

Cafes are bustling with the songs of false victory

Men’s voices are hoarse from smoke 

And from drinking scorching defeats

Oh, my friend 

Your death spread the snow color on my hair 

If you had stayed a little bit longer

You would have seen how my name was won

But death betrayed you

As it did my mother 

And my father as well

All their advice fell on stone ears 

Our lives filled up with wars, poverty, and exile 

When I shout

Oh father, 

Mother, 

Brother,

Sister, 

There is no echo coming back 

And regret bites my heart 

Oh, my friend

Can you stop your specter from dancing in my memory 

Give me ten minutes to sleep 

The smoke from the plane that killed you 

Suffocates my days 


Faleeha Hassan is a poet, teacher, editor, writer, playwright, and cultural ambassador from Iraq who now lives in the USA. She received her master’s degree in Arabic literature and is the first woman to write poetry for children in Iraq. A 2019 Pulitzer Prize nominee, Hassan has published twenty books and has had her poetry translated into over ten languages.  
http://www.faleehahassan.com

Image Credit: “Dripping” by Fabio Sassi
Read by Ed Robson

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