Jon Davis translating Naseer Hassan

Six poems from Dayplaces
Al Tahrir Square / Bookshops / A Body

(the noon blossoms in the sun . . .)
You resist the desire that curls up in the auction, where it sells and they buy\ and hide in a blown-apart shelter\ asking about an ancient river, about a corpse that decayed in spite of the formalin.
The evening in the city is alone and silent; an old room near the cinema\ the visitors saw it when they came\ and when truths accumulated each upon the other\ drainage pipes\ the circulating waters\ and the window that knew the ages and many goatskin bottles.
From Al Tahrir Square to the Slave Square, and from the rustle of passersby to the winter’s fast; the bookshops carry the papers of those who came to the riverbank – like corpses or like books.

An Evening, in Al Kadhimia City

You stop in the glare; . . . how many walls were obstructing the distance? . . .
The ghosts were moving in the darkness upon the roofs, under the light of strange lamps; the glare of shrines extends into the growing gloom – minarets become trees, the dome becomes a mace . . .
A royal scene\ end of July\ al Kadhimia\ the women are weaving the road’s thread, and the masses are moving towards the end (towards an end); the city is motionless; the night that accumulates in thin layers\ and the Rose is absent in the night’s growth. 

Bab Al Muadham / Eternity

An ancient mountain under Madinat Al Tib\ under the root of light\ under the house’s bitter orange tree\ under the dust.
The vehicle was full of us\ of colored garments, while we were looking, like the dead from another time, to the street.

Being, Only …

The outskirts near Baghdad, resemble time\ you see things – silent, bearing a wisdom, between this day and that (orbit).
The river is besieged, (drinking water), or pouring down steps in a small hut on the outskirts.


Dust accumulated on the table\ and the vertical glass led to the maze.
When childhood was a pasture, and the ancient day amassed in the shelters, in a (thawra) that didn’t know the (dawn)\ maybe winter was mud\ the city aligns, tired, in the night’s road.
On the old glass, the sky opens, pouring\ and on older glass\ the dust of brocaded mats, when they align in an obsequy or Azaa.


That rude scene\ the crush of eyes against a cloud, which continued to rise with (Al Thawra) a street, muddy, like the road – on a rose of mud . . .
(anciently) we knew Life; the air fermented by the sun, and the wine in a night of gloomy clarity; we knew the wick wavering towards beauty\ or a wide street – years rimming its sides – in a lost drop of wine, on the face of that “life” which was nothing but . . . life . . .[i]
* nostalgia . . . ?


[1] A text:
        To be here
        To be back from the Ark
        To meet yourself
        Between Wadi Alsalaam
        And a wilderness that resembles the land
        Before Abdul Kareem noticed . . . 



Jon Davis

The most recent of Jon Davis's seven collections of poetry is Preliminary Report (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). His previous book, Scrimmage of Appetite, was honored with a Lannan Literary Award. In addition to the Lannan Award, he has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the Lavan Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He is Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Naseer Hassan

Naseer Hassan is an Iraqi poet and translator of poetry and philosophy. He was born in Baghdad in 1962 and graduated with a degree in architecture from Baghdad University. Hassan has published four books of poetry in Arabic; Dayplaces is the most recent. Dayplaces is forthcoming in English in 2015 from Tebot Bach's New World Translation Series.