*translated from Arabic by the author.

 

I don’t want to be the princess.

I only want to be her sleep

for 100 years.

 

I want to skip the problems

of the 21st century—

water pollution

killing virus

nuclear war

capsized boats

carrying runners

away from their homelands.

 

I may miss important inventions

and new songs

and weekends

when people go out

to their dates

all followed by one moon.

 

I may open my eyes for a moment

to take a glimpse of the universe in its beauty

and then will close them again.

 

But what if my loved ones

surrounded me

and whispered in my ear

one by one?

I would wake up of course.

 

“100 Years of Sleep” is part of “In Her Feminine Sign”, published in 2019 by New Directions.

 

Dunya Mikhail was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and moved to the United States thirty years later in 1995. After graduating from the University of Baghdad, she worked as a journalist and translator for The Baghdad Observer. Facing censorship and interrogation, she left Iraq, first to Jordan and then to America, settling in Detroit. She currently teaches Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Dunya Mikhail is “one of the foremost poets of our time.” She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Knights Foundation grant, a Kresge Fellowship, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. Her writing has garnered attention from The PBS News Hour, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Poetry, among others. 

Her books, published by New Directions, include THE WAR WORKS HARD, shortlisted for the Griffon Poetry Prize; DIARY OF A WAVE OUTSIDE THE SEA, won the Arab American Book Award. IN HER FEMININE SIGN, selected as the Wild Card Choice (UK), was chosen by The New York Public Library as one of the ten best poetry books of 2019. Her non-fiction THE BEEKEEPER, a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, and long-listed for the National Book Award, is an account of enslavement of women by ISIS, who are rescued by an unlikely hero: a beekeeper, who uses his knowledge of the local terrain, along with a network of transporters, to bring these women, one by one, back to safety.

Photo credit: Nina Subin

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