The War Works Hard

by Dunya Mikhail

How magnificent is the war!
So earnest,
so efficient!
In the predawn hours
it wakes up the sirens
and sends ambulances
here and there—
it hurls corpses into the air
and carries stretchers to the wounded.
The war draws rain
from each mother’s eye,
it digs into the earth
and dislodges so much
from beneath the ruins:
some lifeless and glistening,
others pale and throbbing, still, still . . .
O productive war! So many questions
you grow in the children’s minds!
So much entertainment for the gods,
fireworks and missiles shot into the sky!
The war sows mines in the fields
and harvests punctured, blistered skin.
It hurries families into exile
and serves with priests
as they curse the devil—
(poor devil, he stands
with a hand in the searing fire).
The war works hard, day and night.
It is a muse for the tyrant’s
long speeches,
it hangs medals around generals,
it blesses poets with themes,
it makes the makers busy—
just look at the industry of artificial limbs!
And the flies! How much they have to eat!
It lengthens the pages of history,
the killer and the killed are now equal: dead.
The war inspires lovers to write letters
while its women wait on and on.
The newspapers burst with stories and photographs
and the war builds shelters for its orphans.
It enlivens the coffin makers
and says to its grave diggers, good work, good work…
Then it paints a grin on the tyrant’s face.
The war works with unparalleled diligence!
So who will praise the war?
No one.

Translated from the Arabic by Katie Ford

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