Poem of a Political Prisoner

Fadhil Al-Azzawi:  In my spare time


During my long, boring hours of spare time

I sit to play with the earth’s sphere.

I establish countries without police or parties

and I scrap others that no longer attract consumers.

I run roaring rivers through barren deserts

and I create continents and oceans

that I save for the future just in case.

I draw a new coloured map of the nations:

I roll Germany to the Pacific Ocean teeming with whales

and I let the poor refugees

sail pirates’ ships to her coasts

in the fog

dreaming of the promised garden in Bavaria.

I switch England with Afghanistan

so that its youth can smoke hashish for free

provided courtesy of Her Majesty’s government.

I smuggle Kuwait from its fenced and mined borders

to Comoro, the islands

of the moon in its eclipse,

keeping the oil fields intact, of course.

At the same time I transport Baghdad

in the midst of loud drumming

to the islands of Tahiti.

I let Saudi Arabia crouch in its eternal desert

to preserve the purity of her thoroughbred camels.

This is before I surrender America

back to the Indians

just to give history

the justice it has long lacked.


I know that changing the world is not easy

but it remains necessary nonetheless.


Fadhil al-Azzawi is one of those poets who have spent much time in prison and in exile, one of those who confronted the self-portrait of power. He is born in Kirkuk in 1940, a town and a people speaking and singing in Arabic and Turkish, in Kurdish and Assyrian. It fills his mind with the deep and simple reality of human life. A simple reality that often is so difficult.

The utopian geography of this poem speaks for itself. Perhaps especially for us in Europe, a continent of empires and inhumanity. Fadhil al-Azzawi gives ‘history the justice it has long lacked’, knowing, too, that changing the world is not easy.

Fadhil Al-Azzahi, Miracle Maker (Selected Poems 1960-2002). Translated by Khaled Mattawa. BOA Editions, 2003.


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