Moon of Wars

Ra'ad Abdulqadir
Translated from the Arabic by Mona Kareem


Moon and School—
the moon is on the earth
the school in the sky

In the open playground
there are gemstones
and a long row of trees
In hospitals
the bells of childhood are ringing
In streets
the wheels of dust are rolling
and in houses
dreams go jumping off windows

the students are nowhere
the birds are in trenches

noontime has become


Paper birds cross over the moon of wars
their thread furls around the night’s body
from the moon’s eye a huge tear falls
on the school bell

there is also a hand
of severed leaves


The schools have gone to war
on classroom chairs flowers abound
the blackboards wet with the rain
and at night
the bells kept on ringing

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Ra’ad Abdulqadir (1953–2003) is a pioneer of the Iraqi prose poem, the author of five poetry collections, and a lifelong editor of Aqlam, Iraq’s leading literary magazine. Except for This Unseen Thread: Selected Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse), translated by Mona Kareem, is his first collection in English translation.

Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections, and most recently, the trilingual chapbook Femme Ghosts (Publication Studio). She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and is a Translator-in-Residence at Princeton University. Her translations include Octavia Butler’s Kindred into Arabic (Takween Publishing); Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within (The Operating System), longlisted for the BTBA 2017 awards; and Ra’ad Abdulqadir’s selected poems, Except for This Unseen Thread.

Brooklyn, New York

Except for This Unseen Thread, the first collection of Ra’ad’s work in English translation, is comprised of poems selected from both titles, with an introduction by the translator. (Ugly Duckling Presse)

"What I love about the poetry of Ra’ad are the small details that become reference points to essential truths, as if they are atoms quietly and dynamically moving together in a simple yet profound meaning. The landscape of his poetry is fertile, so as soon as Abdulqadir skillfully sows a poetic seed, many questions emerge. Play is important in his poetry, but what’s particularly special about the game is that you can reassemble the parts differently every time, thus discovering new things by chance."
—Dunya Mikhail

"Ra’ad Abdulqadir’s Selected Poems consists of fragile, tender moments observed during life and death under sanctions and wars in Iraq. Ra’ad’s poetic language is spoken inside a glass coffin—it only speaks to the wind, snow, rain, clouds, butterflies, and stone birds. Mona Kareem beautifully channels Ra’ad’s glass language of refusal—her translation is an act of refusal against the destruction waged by nation-states."
—Don Mee Choi

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