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Gharib: Alien

After Mahmoud Darwish's poem 'You shall be forgotten as if you never lived'


I shall be forgotten as if I was never there.

Troops came.  Troops went. They dismantled the prison camp where I was brought up, where my mother died. On the site of the Arab Abu-Gharib, where prison guards spoke Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, I dug a grave for my mother and asked the guard to carve her name on a rock: Dlawar Khushnaw.

I stood there a man without a shadow left to his own devices.  I had no name, no home, no forwarding address. No entry east, west, north or south.  But I am for the road. I followed the silk root backwards stepping only on margins. The footsteps of those who preceded me. I travelled north.

I squatted in a lorry looking through a small hole and dreaming of a grand entrance. There will be milk, honey, roads paved with gold, women white like dawn, and all that was forbidden, khushawistm. There will be laughter and echoes of home. Beyond the white cliffs there will be love.

The prison guards spoke English. ‘Do you have any proof of identity?’
A handful of English words. ‘no’ was not one of them.
‘An ET without travel documents!’

I shall be forgotten as if I was never a news item. 

There was no ceremonial return. A plane landed in Baghdad. Shackled I trudged on the tarmac. There were dogs, soldiers, weapons. ‘Jee wiz! what do we have here?’ American Abu-Gharib prison. Us all Arab. All Sunni. All Saddam’s men.

If only they ran literacy lessons at the camp.

Little language! Little writing! few words! On the radio!

Perhaps I was not there.

Ramga min lera nabum.