Except for This Unseen Thread

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.

Published in Baghdad in 2006, Falcon with Sun Overhead and The Age of Entertainment inspired a new generation of Iraqi poets, charmed by Ra’ad’s ability to write tender poems in times of destruction and fury. While many of his peers were writing poems about battlefields and faraway exiles, Ra’ad was looking closer in, at the loneliness of those left behind. Hailed for its cinematic portrait of Iraq under sanctions—the bread queues, busy cemeteries, empty schools, and the impossible departures and returns, Ra’ad’s work commemorates the wonders of a city staying still, one blink at a time. 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, Mona Kareem.


The wife is dead the man and his seven daughters live The man dies the seven daughters live The girls marry then their seven husbands die The girls go to visit the graves of parents and husbands They return accompanied by seven butterflies Today the butterflies flutter alone in their thousands over the dog's head on the boat carrying the sun to the cemetery


Happy with the rain a red car lays down in a hole on the street corner a fire goes off in the cemetery near the bridge gulls go flying in the rain windows of the white city look out to the river the sick are watching the rain through glass windows nurses place soup bowls on rectangular tables steam floats over roofs of the white city bedsheets are spread on the trees the fishermen gather their empty nets at sunset small fish in the cafe tank move around in chaos the hole on the street corner is filled with ringing the red car flashes light through the rain the dead are happy with the rain happy


What can we do? We have got to think truth is there isn’t much time left the deadline has passed it was short notice shorter than they expected shorter than anyone expected the wind has passed and the carriages too it was a big event bigger than they had imagined much bigger truth is they were all the time preoccupied with how short the short notice was and much more than that much more


Pray for us with affection with hope pleading For us, pray for the rain with tenderness Keep on praying we will dig in the furrows we will plant the seeds Pray for us for the plants and animals with tears you don't have to enunciate or understand the words just keep praying for us with affection for us for the dead


They arrive, certainly, they will arrive at the end of the round we will receive them with flowers we will wait for them, clapping we will hug them tightly They will arrive, tired and exhausted they may fall down we may hear their fall in the distance the sound of their knees creaking their shapes may disappear, evaporate they may turn into water and we may set up altars for them we may enter the altars and pray for them for their bold souls strong and storming until the end of the round the end of the round in an intimate embrace they wait for the whistle