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odd garbled syllable of a word.

The four men bent down, picked up the soldier’s corpse and threw it into the river that flowed by in the dark not far away. As it hit the water, the splash sounded like a cry for help which no one would ever hear. For a few moments there was complete silence. However, before long it was broken by the sound of footsteps running away into the distance; left behind was some blood which had soaked into a piece of ground close to a big old gate. In the past the gate had formed part of a high stone wall that had surrounded the city’s houses and protected them from enemies. The gate had been breached on many occasions; men, horse and steel swords had come pouring out in those days. But the wall was in disrepair now, and only a few scattered ruins were left; and the gate was always left open.


from the collection Rabi’a fi al-Ramad (Spring in the Ashes),1963

The Earth is Ours, the Sky Belongs to the Birds

Damascus in ancient times, it is told, was a sword forced to live imprisoned in its scabbard, a child whose steps were slowed by shackles, and where jasmine grew secretly in cemeteries, wearing blackest clothing. When her enemies discovered the situation, their armies marched against her. Around her walls Damascus built a rampart of the slain who knew not sleep, and she was filled with terror, confusion and vexation. Her people raced together and swarmed around the palace of their king, clam-

144 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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