VOICE FROM SYRIA
Poems from Damascus
Scattered Images from Damascus
I wake up and reach for the coffee pot and turn on the faucet, but to my great shock there is no water. I frantically call my neighbors and they say the whole city is without water! This has never happened before. The Fijeh spring, the main source of water in Damascus, has never been cut.
City of light without electricity,
City of jasmine with no water,
City of sunshine without warmth,
City of love with no compassion,
City of history with no future.
I empty a bottle of water into the electric pot and switch it on but there is no electricity. I decide to use the gas stove to only find out that the gas bottle is empty. What a dreary, sad morning without coffee!
Cutting down on water and electricity,
Cutting down on fuel and gas,
Cutting down on salaries,
Cutting down on happiness.
Daily, dull morning scenes,
The inescapable reality,
Of losing one’s humanity.
23 Dec 2014
I turn the pages of the Islamic calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. It will be Ramadan in two months or so.
Beautiful childhood memories of Ramadan come back to me. The aroma of delicious special Ramadan dishes wafting in the air. The sweet voices of the Muezzins calling us to Taraweeh, the Ramadan night prayer as crowds of lively people throng to the mosques.
I remember last Ramadan how sad and lonely it was:
Ramadan this year passes
With no colorful lanterns
Lighting up the holy nights in Cairo,
No zuker* breaking the silence of
The sacred Damascene nights.
Baghdad stores are closed,
Streets of Tripoli are empty,
Gaza is under attack,
Iraq is in flames,
The World takes a nap,
While the Arabs
Argue over who should have won
The World Cup matches.
*Remembering the name of God.
July 20 2014
So I decide to wander around the city. As I pass our neighbor’s door, I hear the wind whistle through the key hole. The door rattles as if it suddenly woke up from a rosy dream and realized its inhabitants have disappeared forever.
Sounds of footsteps approaching the door,
Sound of a key turning in the keyhole,
Unlocking the door to happiness,
Lightning up the everlasting darkness.
It is merely dark shadows lurking around,
The wind whistling through the keyhole,
While the silent door remains closed,
Embracing its sadness, dreaming to be unlocked.
Nov 15 2014
Everyone seems to be fleeing the country. Where ever you go you see shut windows and locked doors waiting patiently for their owners – dwellers- to return.
Walking in the streets of Damascus fills my heart with sorrow.
A city once filled with people and the buzz of daily life, is now gradually losing its inhabitants. A city full of hope and inspiration is gradually falling into desperation.
In Damascus city,
Life is a sunset
Sinking in peoples’ hearts,
Signaling fiery threats,
Spreading rays of sadness,
Dipping into total darkness.
As I walk through the streets, my heart hurts to see the death announcements plastered on the walls. I carefully read the names inscribed and wonder about the families left behind.
How many recently wedded young men left their brides forever?
How many sons and daughters will never see their fathers again?
Nevertheless, life goes on. In spite of the sounds of shells falling and planes raging above, people rush around me carrying their shopping bags.
Life Goes On
Shells rocking the ceilings and floors,
Death announcements plastered on walls,
Brides becoming widows overnight,
Sons waiting for fathers to return from the fight,
Planes storming madly right and left in the sky,
As people with shopping bags go hurrying by.
31st Dec 2014
I carry my shopping bags and sit down to rest in a park where a crowd of children are arguing about whose turn it is to be the ‘shell’. Their game intrigues me. In my day, I remember arguing about whose turn it was to be the ghouleh (witch), wizard, or even policeman – but a shell?
I get inspired and imagine the shell describing its deadly journey…
The Journey of a Shell
Like a shooting star,
They set me to kill near and far.
I travel over Damascus all aglow,
Soaring over minarets and steeples
Passing things above and below,
Busy people going to and fro
Happy children everywhere you go,
As I suddenly descend down low
I hear shrieks followed by a big blow
What happened afterwards?
I do not know!
Dec 29th 2014
On my way home, I meet some parents of my old students. They all ask me the usual questions: “Are you still teaching?”
“What are your latest books?”
I definitely feel they are asking about someone else.
I covered my dreams,
kissed them goodnight,
And quietly let them be.
I walked out of my life,
From now on,
I’ve become a stranger to me.
Jan 7th 2015
Back home, my daughter has just returned from an outing. She is bubbling with life and happiness. She vividly describes her trip on the quaint old steam engine train to the Barada river and the fun she and her friends had. Through the eyes’ of my daughter, I can see a gleam of hope. The young inhabitants of our sad city are sick of death and they struggle to seek another path to life…
We are the generation with shattered dreams
Who wake and sleep upon shells and screams
Whose only concern and worry
Is whether electricity and internet return in a hurry
We are the generation whose happiness is stolen
Yet our young hearts to life are still widely open
We are the generation who will someday say
We fought dark shadows and cast them away.
As Imady’s poems and notes reveal, the chaos in Syria extends beyond what the news services show. Life goes on day to day in a surreal reflection of normal routines. Families like Imady’s grapple with getting groceries, petrol, going to school, going to work (if you have it) simultaneously with power outages and gunfire. Birthday parties are celebrated as well as funerals. Bougainvillea blooms where it can, grass fills the cracks and children play in parks, only scurrying home when the shelling gets too close.
Imady pinpoints the random moments when the steel in the core of each Damascene ripples under the pressure before hardening again. In small villages and once-thriving cities, citizens live, love and wait, praying for the war to end.
Muna Imady was born in Damascus in 1962 to an American mother and a Syrian father. She has a BA in English Literature and a diploma in English-Arabic Translation from Damascus University as well as a Maitrise from the Sorbonne.
Imady has designed a beginners English reading course for children and has written several text books for teaching English as a second language to children. She has also written and translated many short Arabic stories for children which were published in several Arabic magazines.
She has been interested in folktales since she was a child and promised herself that one day she would write a book of the folktales she had collected. Imady lives in Damascus with her husband Dr Nizar Zarka and her three children, Nour, Sammy, and Kareem. She teaches English as a second language to young children and continues to collect folktales in her free time.
She is the author of the collection: Syrian Folktales
Works by Muna Imady
AIRMAIL/VOICE FROM SYRIA
A Damascene Baby Shower
A Damascene Story (Contest Winner: Every Family Has a Story)
A Damascene Wedding
A Damascene Wedding Shower Amid the War
A Death in the Family
Beirut in a Damascene’s Eyes
Damascus – February is the Month of Cats: Shbat Shahr Alattat
Poems from Damascus
Reactions and Realities: A Poet’s Perspective; A Visitor’s View
Snow in Damascus
The Three Spinners: A Syrian Folktale
What Will Be, Will Be