He Was My Friend: A Poem by Karim Al Iraqi (Translated by Ramzi Salti)

Karim Al Iraqi (1955-2023) was a renowned Iraqi poet who passed away in Abu Dhabi on September 1, 2023 after battling cancer. He was 68.

As I tribute, I am sharing his poem "Kana Sadiqi" كان صديقي [He Was My Friend], an Arabic poem written by Iraqi poet Karim Aliraqi كريم العراقي  aka Karim Odeh  كريم عوده, about finding himself in the role of intermediary between a couple (two friends of his) whose love he had once witnessed but who were now breaking up. The poet speaks of his dilemma in the video below then goes on to recite the poem in Arabic. 

Poem translated into English by Dr. Ramzi Salti.

قصيدة "كان صديقي" للشاعر كريم العراقي (كريم عوده) يخاطب بها حبيبين افترقا وكان هو الوسيط بينهما والذي يشكى كل منهما له همه وسبب بعده عن حبيبه الآخر.
ترجم القصيدة الى الانجليزية الدكتور رمزي سلطي


This video shows the poet, Karim Al Iraqi, reading his poem in 2014: https://youtu.be/Dz3lG0mZZSw



Lyrics  كامات القصيدة

He was my friend and she was eternally his.
Their love story, revered by everyone
How could that story, once so sweet,
Transform into quarrels, desertion, neglect?
And I, the witness, wounded in their battle
Caught between their sharp, fiery swords

I saw him, looking ill, pale, lost
His heart shattered, bleeding from regret
Be my doctor, he said, and bear my pain
Have you seen her? Did she speak of me?
Was her sorrow deeper than mine?
Does that same perfume still engulf her
Or has she changed it, repulsed by memory
I lost her like a fool loses everything
As if I had cut off my own hand.
My friend wept; she had been eternally his
That love that legends are made of.

She met me, her complexion pale
A burning candle, consumed by fire,
Wounded by the mere mention of his name
She clutched my hand, cried me a storm
He is the one, she said, who broke me
Who drenched my life in sorrow and woe
Yet I wish him well, unconditionally,
As a mother would love her child.
Tell me is he still in agony
For I fear what despair may do to him
To his fragility, to his being.
I fear for him and not myself.
Tell him that the wind has swept away,
From the harbor, a woman he once loved
Ask him to seek distant shores
For my ship he sank, my very security
Eternally lost now to he whose love
Had been my home and anchor

This story of ours, has it been told?
She talked, he talked, until the dawn
My hand, holding the phone, incessantly.
Return to each other or break apart forever
Two fiery swords, cutting me,
Bleeding the life right out of me
You have become, alas, motherless children


كان صديقي وكانت حبـَّه الأبدي
بل كان حبُّهما حكايةَ البلدِ
واستغرب الناسُ كيف القصة انقلبت
إلى خصامٍ، إلى هجرٍ، إلى نكدِ
أما أنا الشاهدُ المجروحُ بينهما
سيفان من نار يختصمان في كبدي
.....................
هو التقاني مريضاً.. تائهَ القدمِ
محطمَ القلب.. أدمى اصبع الندمِ
"كن يا صديقي طبيبي واحتمل ألمي"
هل قابلتكَ؟ وهل حدّثتَها عني؟
هل حزنـُها كان أقسى؟ أم أنا حزني؟
وذلك العطرُ هل لا زال يغمرها؟
أم غيرتهُ؟ نعم، مستاءة ٌ مني
خسرتـُها يا لطيشي لا بديل لها
ماذا فعلتُ لو قطعتُ يدي؟"
بكى صديقي.. كانت حبــَّهُ الأبدي
بل كان حبـُّهما أسطورة البلدِ
.....................
هي التقتني وقد شحُبت ملامحُها
وكما يذوبُ الشمعُ في النارِ
كان اسمُه لو مرَّ يجرحها
مسكتْ يدي وبكتْ كإعصارِ
" هو الذي دمـَّر أحلامي
هو الذي أمطرني همّا
لكنني أوصيك خيراً به
كأنني صرتُ له أمـّا
بالله هل ما زال مضطرباً؟
أخشى عليه نوبة اليأس ِ
إحساسُه العالي سيقتلـُهُ
خوفي عليه لا على نفسي
بلـِّـغه أن الريحَ قد خطفت
بنتاً على الميناءِ يعشقها
وليتجه لشواطئ ٍ أخرى
فسفينتي بيديهِ أغرقها
سَرق الأمانُ وضاع للأبدِ
من خلتـُهُ سقفي ومعتمدي"
.....................
تلك الحكاية ُ هل مرَّتْ على أحدِ؟
وكلـّمتني.. وكلـّمني.. لصبح غدِ
ما فارق الهاتفُ السهرانُ كفَّ يدي
عودا لبعضٍ أو انفصلا إلى الأبدِ
سيفان من نارٍ تختصمان في كبدي
ففيكما الآن شوقُ الأمِّ للولد
This poem was set to music and recorded by Iraqi singer Kazem El Saher. Listen below or at https://youtu.be/4A0jxpTcTZ0:

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