In the Land of Shattered Windows
In the Land of Shattered Windows
Young Voices from a Broken Yemen

Yemeni Women During The War

Over A Bridge Of Fears (1)

Aisha Al-Jaidy

 
 
 

Mukalla…
A city married to the sea.
The mountains guard her from the right,
And the beliefs of her people guard her from the left,
The belief that she is the most important gift of God,
Even if the cities around her started to fall down,
For the fire of disasters will turn to a cool and
peaceful wind!

And she knows this combination of qualities,
So she lies flirtatiously along the coast,
And whenever she gets bored, the bridges seek her attention.

But April came truly this time,
With all that she would not stand or wish.[1] 
It came with fear,
The fear that brought with it the rest of the signs:
The departure of our words, voices, freedom,
Our songs, colours and life.
The arrival of darkness and despair,
Exhaustion and escape,
Burglary and raids,
And death in its all forms.
The arrival of urgent generalizations,
The successive threats,
And the enforced disappearance.
The arrival of identities, facts, people,
And an endless cycle of anticipation.

The fear was also clear too…
From the unknown eyes,
Behind the veils.
The eyes, whose stories are unknown,
Where did they come from?
And how did they end up here?
But the real fear in the eyes of the executioners
- Thanks to our horror -
Was not noticed!

Blocked only by prayers,
That God will protect “Hadramout” and grant her people
The power to defend her,
And to keep us blessed with safety and security.
The only library,
Located far away, near a blue bridge,
Sells whatever counterfeit books are available.
A small window of liberty that they failed to close,
And a serious right that survived the confiscation.

 On my way to it I would reflect
On our four rebellious bridges,
And how "fairly" they have been allocated.

The old bridge in black and white is "for them".
They excavated the graves of its builders,
And they live on top of them [the graves].

The huge grey bridge on the other side,
They sweep insolence from beneath  it
So that they can hang the corpses.

Between the two bridges,
Sits an innocent yellow bridge for pedestrians,
Heading west of the city.

There is also a blue bridge that leads to the mosque,
To the vegetable vendors,
And to the downtown market,
And at the end of every month, it leads me to the library.

Over the bridge,
We can pass by good-hearted children
Who gently grab our clothes,
And extend their hands,
Which often return empty.
[We pass by] a blind man who recites some verses from the Quran,
We hear his melodious sound, among the hustle, and fail to
understand it.
[We pass by] brown women, scattered along the bridge.
We throw a few coins at them,
We do that hoping that the blessings will be returned to us .

 
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So, every day,
We have to make sure that we look more faithful,
More adapted to falsehood,
Not that we were forced to do it;
But because we believed it was the right thing to
do.

We had to immediately stop doubting,
To randomly ignore anything suspicious,
Like all the billboards on the streets
That show the pretty face of a smiling woman,
Even if [in reality] we looked deformed.

And everyone also had to get familiar,
With standing in long queues,
Waiting for the return of electricity at five O’clock,
Storing as much as possible of supplies,
And learn first aid just in case,
For war is coming from the north,

 At the corner, where the “veiled man” chooses to sit,
Watching everything, and promoting the “fear of God”,
Only one woman sits nearby.
She amazes me with her ability to diversify her prayers:
Ease and safety for pregnant women,
Dignity for the virgins,
Resistance for the bearded men,
Victory for the "sons" of the homeland,
And safety from the scourge of the next war!
In her lap, the banknotes and the coins, increase more and more.

Every time I pass by her,
I find her lap almost full.
This time, I left a banknote in her lap and I smiled,
At  the idea that I finally found
Someone who is not terrified by April.
I walked and I found it ironic that
There is at least one  woman benefiting from our fears.

 
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I Miss The One I lost

Reem Al-Shamiry

 
 
 

Nothing mistreats the soul,
Or spoils life's attempts,
Like my yearning to you, my lost one.
Nostalgia is the worst war criminal.
It does not come from behind you, nor from under
your feet,
It bombards you from within,
It faces you from within,
It resists you from within,
It sneaks around without fingerprints,
It injures you without a weapon,
It kills without evidence,
It kills without leaving a body behind,
It is the cause of my pale smile,
It is the cause of my laughter that is almost a cry,
It is the source of my memories,
And it determines the timing of their appearance.
Like the memories on which my heart rests, like a
pillow to sleep,
Or those in which I get the courage to forget you,
my lost one!
My yearning for you is my unjust tyrant,
My stabbed chest,
And the master of my decisions.
If it comes then my mind goes away,
My feelings intensify,
My face gets washed with tears,
And I get out of breath when I see your pictures.
My ribs dangle in your illusive kindness,
In your illusive scent.
All the absurdities were gathered,
In seconds that seemed as hours,
And in hours that seemed as forever.
They were gathered like a lifetime in a dream,
Like water from a mirage,
Like a vanishing from the void,
So that they can tell me that life goes on.

Imagine!
Without you I have to go on.
For our children,
I was forced to lead the caravan alone,
I led it while I was motionless,
I pushed it to the middle of a battlefield of guns,
Amid a great explosion in my heart,
That was caused by your loss.
I stopped my longing in a sudden,
And I stood without feet,
To walk in a road without a road,
Towards a goal without a purpose.
Then I woke up to feel the conflict,
To feel all kinds of losses.
Why did the war take you from me?
Why do they say you are a martyr?
You were just a sacrifice for the feast.
Who said you intended to be a martyr?
You were just a hardworking student who wanted to get a degree,
You were just a man working hard to get a toy for our baby girl,
So that the house is filled with her laughter and joy.
Your baby girl, who before the war took you away from her,
Used to make a white scarf from your white garment,
And a doll from her cushion.
We had all hopes for her after you named her Amal [Hope].
But here she is today, shouting madly:
Who said I needed a martyr as a father?
Why do they lie claiming you were free?
You were just one of the slaves,
One of the sheep herd.
And everyone died.
And here they are now forming a new herd,
While we suffer a new loss,
A new longing…
A forever longing

 
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Over A Bridge Of Fears (2)

Aisha Al-Jaidy

 
 
 

Good morning - by our time,
Only if you are still there and remember us.
Only if you do not get hurt by the light,
And your sense of time is not yet dead.

I write to you from the heart of summer,
Where you can only long to roam during a sunny afternoon,
And hear the whispers of passersby so that you can imagine
How the bounties of the sea did not succeed this
time
To get a suitable deal,
Where the town is located, with its songs,
With its successive weddings, and the incoming
ships,
And the fish which has been salted in the central market,
The price of which was not enough to meet the rise in costs,
The collapse of the currency,
The deteriorating services,
And the absence of hope from the scene for three
years now.

The absence of hope took many things away,
But the simplicity of people,
The simplicity of their desire for a “humble life”,
Were not among them;
You, instead, were the most important one of these
things.

I have always told you:
You must be brave to say you are scared,
And scared enough to look brave.

And you did not always listen to me,
Do you listen now?

For two years I have been writing to you,
For months, days and nights.
I awaited your return until I lost count,
Until I lost my anger, my fear and my nostalgia.
And here I am now, waiting for you,
To prove to you that
If you were brave enough,
You would have said you were scared.

If they managed to only sense enough,
They would discover that you are shivering
From behind your beard,
Behind your long hair,
And behind the dangling pot belly which is armed with weapons.
They would have realized that, because of your fear,
You have shortened your dress,
And lengthened your skin instead. 
Only if they knew you the way I do.

My voice could not reach you at the time,
It was just a shameful thing!
So was my name, my eyes and your heart.
I was forced, in the name of God, to hide everything,
And in his name too – suddenly – you disappeared!

Near you, over the bridge,
I have often passed by, dragged by my fears,
But you never noticed me,
Or this is what I thought.

 From within me, at the darkest hours of night,
They came and dragged you, as well as your great fear,
While your eyes were sinking in the void.
You took a look at my locked window,
And you thought that,
Behind the veil - with the eyes of my heart -
I could not see you.

 
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A Concealed Sadness

Reem Al-Shamiry

 
 
 

The sadness of the martyr’s mother is concealed.
If you unveil it,
The mountains will tremble.
Oh mother of the martyr! Forgive me!
There are no words I can write to you,
And all the letters were wet by your tears. 
All the meanings were lost,
After the explosion of your heart.
What do you want me to write?
How can I describe your tragedy?
What can I say, and how to express myself?

 The martyr’s mother is weeping and ageing. 
There is a funeral,
There is a martyrdom,
There are letters wearing the colour of grief,
The words keep diminishing,
And in front of your scream “Oh my son!”,
My pen kneels. What can I do? 
In front of your shout “Oh my dearest!”,
The pages turn black out of shame,

And all the writings disappear.
The martyr’s mother said:
Today, no one looks like my homeland but me!
No one!
I feel its weight on my back,
Its sorrows blind my vision,
Its weakness freezes my senses,
And its despair spoils my argument.
Today, no one looks like my homeland but me!
Oh my child! No one!
And no one regrets your destiny today but me!
No one!
For I was the one who begot you as an Arab man, 
And brought you to a war whose fuel was only the innocent people.
You kept crying from your birth until your death,
And I will cry for you until I die.
Then all poems would resign,
And the martyr's mother would collapse, shouting:
“Oh my son!”.

 
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Over A Bridge of Fears (3)

Aisha Al-Jaidy

 
 
 

Before a war and several months,
When we threw away the notebooks,
Exchanged wishes,
And said farewell to the college’s doors and
corridors,
The road to home looked so short;
Short and sweet,
Like midday sandwiches,
Eaten quickly, but no one gets enough of them.

This road has multiplied today.
It has extended and overlapped, until it has lost its end.

After a war and several months,
I no longer find the college’s gate far away,   as we used to.
The war has placed it beyond the reach of our dreams.

This is the war, 
Which they removed us from its records,
From the international reports,
The government’s database,
The speeches of preachers,
And the prayers of common people.

They removed us because we live in a city,
Full of money and businessmen.
Of honey and oil,
Of patience and dreams,
And with migrants’ money transfers.

But who can convince my father's pocket,
That it was not the war?!
Who can convince the complaining bus drivers,
The stations’ owners and the commuters?

But it was, indeed, the war which could turn the lights off,
And light the candles instead,
And burn the day.
It was only the war that could bring  back the hand fans,
And make Eid a dry bite in the mouths of the poor.

Who can convince the doctors
That the waiting rooms are empty,
Not because people suddenly became well,
But because they cannot afford to pay?!

Who can convince my classmates,
That I am not a dropout,
And that I can pay for the bus fare?
That I bought in advance all the required books,
As well as my new jacket, my “Adidas” trainers,
And matching handbags in several colours?

Who can convince them that, at the last moment,
I got tired and wanted to defer my studies, 
Just like that…  No reason, no war?!All the above made me, whenever I walk through a door,
I leave it open,
So that it doesn’t close again, and lock,
Like the bus door,
The college door,
The examinations door,
Or like the door of the future.  

Who will convince my mother, every morning,
When I would chat with her, and she would remind me of my studies? 
When I would explain to her that we are under Chapter VII of the UN charter,
And she would insist that we are under the mercy of God!

 
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Here Is My Hand

Reem Al-Shamiry

 
 
 

To escape, for example,
Where can we go my homeland?
How can I carry you in my suitcase?
How can we cross the borders without being searched?
How can we both fly away,
Far away… far away?
How can I carry you?
Your burdens are too heavy for my little back,
And your cuts are so deep in my skinny body.
How can I protect you while I do not feel safe?

Look at me, oh my homeland!
I feel you silently,
I fill the bags of my heart with you,
I carve you in the features of my face ,
I draw your streets in the lines of my palm,
I pour the water of your rain into my veins,
I breathe your blood-soaked mud as if it was a perfume,
I wear your map as a necklace on my neck,
And I plant you inside me as a forever tattoo.
So how can you forget me as if I was nothing?
I fill myself with your memories,
But where did you leave my memories in you?
I cannot escape by myself,
I cannot escape without you.

Hold my hand, oh homeland!
Find us a solution!
Find us a safe shelter!
I care for you,
Hold my hand, and find us a solution!
Or push us towards the cliff edge!
We will make it [the cliff edge] our identity,
We will grow up again,
We will plant again,
We will build again,
I will heal you,
I will dream of you; sweet dreams that you will make come true,
Will you not, my homeland?!

I will give birth to my child,
But you will not educate him to become a martyr,
Will you, my homeland?
Answer me!
As I trust nothing in you but you,
I belong to nothing in you but to you.
I am not a religion,
Not a race,
And not a party.
I am just someone who wipes the past,
A young stormy woman,
An ambition of a girl,
A blank page,
A new page.
So write your victories on it again!
Make me a real history,
Make my child a great man,
Whose blood is full of love and peace,
Keep him for your sake,
Squander him for your sake,
Not for the sake of power,
Nor for the rulers, or their followers.

Do you remember me now, my homeland?
Take my hand!
Let us jump towards the cliff edge,
We will make it [the cliff edge] our identity,
A strong identity,
With a new passport,
With which we can cross all borders,
Unstoppable.
They will not search us,
They will not classify us,
They will not take you from the bags of my heart. 
They cannot take you from me,
Without separating our hands,
Without distorting our dreams.
Take my hand!
To run away… you and me,
For I am not able to escape without you,
And you will not escape without me,
Will you, my homeland?!

 
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