“The moon is our neighbor,”
while the taxi driver adjusts the mirror
but still misses some images:
a sheer scarf on a bench,
empty bottles scattered around,
coffee grinds on the rooftops,
abandoned pomegranate seeds
(which seeds fell from heaven?),
and a debate:
—This is my land,
and if you don’t believe me, ask the seasons,
for they know how to leave
and how to return.
—No, this is my land,
and if you don’t believe me, ask the birds,
for they know the way home.
—Let’s go ask the ruler of the land,
so that we may know the truth.
—Let’s go to the rain, then.
—Raindrop, you with your great wisdom always know the way to the earth. So tell us: Who owns this land?
And the raindrop replied: I mix with the other raindrops and give no thought to what land I’m falling on. The cloud is the one who sends me. Ask the cloud.
—Cloud, you with your great wisdom always know your way in the sky, and how to send the rain to the earth. Tell us: Who owns this land?
And the cloud replied: I pass by with the other clouds and give no thought to what land I’m floating above. The wind is the one who sends me. Ask the wind.
—Wind, you with your great wisdom know every direction, and you are the one who propels the clouds. Tell us: Who owns this land?
And the wind replied: I move through the whole world, and the tree responds but never follows me. Ask the tree.
—Tree, you with your great wisdom extend your roots into the earth and greet the world with your branches. Tell us: Who owns this land?
And the tree replied: My roots are happy within, and my branches are happy without. The seed is my teacher. Ask the seed.
But the seed was busy feeding the land and had no time to answer.
*Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
from The Iraqi Nights (New Directions, 2014)