Updated: Apr 3, 2020
They were telling their children about
the guardian angel of plants;
about a nightingale that had flown there at dawn
to sing in the mulberry tree above their window.
They were telling them about the grapes
they would sell to buy new clothes.
About the special surprise the children
would find under their pillows at bedtime.
But some soldiers arrived,
stopped their stories,
leaving red splashes on the walls
as they departed.
-Wadin Sa'adeh from A Secret Sky translated from the Arabic by Anne Frairborn (1973)
Comment: Wadin Sa'adeh (1948) was born in Lebanon and due to the war there he immigrated to Australia for the safety of his family. Arab poetry stemming from Arab storytelling traditions has been a constant in historic Arab society. Sa'adeh's work fuses his direct experience of war with the suffering of Arab peoples at large and brings the beauty and despair of an open and existential aware heart to bear witness. The universality in his writing is profound, thus almost anyone can picture one's own life, or their own children captured in such startling moments of tenderness and horror as he shows us in "Night Visit." Anyone wishing to understand the sadness and hopelessness often commented upon in modern Arab cultures should read Sa'adeh. But, be prepared to have your heart broken.