New Internationalist

A poem to remember a crime against a child

New Internationalist reader Judith Morrison, from Melbourne, Australia, writes:

In the November 1998 edition of the New Internationalist there was an article by Felicity Arbuthnot called the ‘The little poet’. It was about Jassim, a 13-year-old Iraqi boy – a poet – who died because the medicine he required to treat his leukaemia (a result of depleted uranium from missiles and bombs in the first Gulf War) arrived too late – because of the imposed sanctions. I framed this article and it has been hanging in my study ever since.

I often think of him and have written a few poems in his memory. When I look at his picture I am always overcome with great sadness and a strange longing. The other night, I was listening to a programme recounting the effect of the sanctions imposed on Iraq at that time and Jassim leapt onto the front of my thoughts. For the first time I worked out how old he would be today if he was still alive: 28. Then I wondered what life would have been like for him, given the history of Iraq since he passed away. I can only believe that he would have remained a poet!

This is a poem I wrote that night:

    A Crime Against a Child
    I dreamt you planted
    a desert flower, a flower
    that would grow with you
    and become a tent for your
    dreams, a place where the breath
    of the desert would keep hunger
    of the soul at bay, and the eye of dawn
    watch over you, lead you to where
    dreams are nourished –

    I awoke to follow your presence
    from my dreams. Tears from your
    unwrapped poetry bled the moment.
    Tears from years embedded within
    your memory, cascaded like a waterfall
    whose journey ahead is unknown –

    The passing years have brought
    death and destruction to the land
    of your ancestors; to the land where
    you ran with the desert wind; where
    your poems were born, where your
    heart sighed for all the broken promises –

      Identity Card (a poem by Jassim written just before he died)
      The name is love
      The class is mindless
      The School is suffering
      The governorate is sadness
      The City is dying
      The street is misery
      The home number is one thousand sighs

    Your poetry lives on so the desert will bloom again…

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