Nippur’s Virgin

Finalist of the “Two Thousand Nights and Awakening” literary contest

Doubts over my gender nag and niggle at the back of my mind, driving me to a state verging on despair. In spite of being painfully conscious of how I choose my words and style my narrative to tell it, the story never gets to shine as bright and sound as salacious as the sequence of events it celebrates. And I am left to hark back to the poetaster mistakes I made when delivering the report, the biggest being lying by omission to my readers and thus depriving them of the pleasure of assessing the relevance to the story of the noise the night makes when locking its jaws on the sleeping townsfolk.

I may throw up later. Who knows? The entire world, perhaps? From where I stand, that seems pretty damn likely! People around here seem to be constantly monitoring everyone else’s every move. There was a time when the night kept secret the wishes people made to the stars, until someone recognized the value of being plugged into what people lost ...Read more


Niniveh, Irak

Oh, Jonah, the One of the Whale, forgive my tardiness! I tried to dispatch my case swiftly and now I lie condemned. Now that my number is up, I am counting the hours I have left. Eventually, I figured it out: your journey, its import. I burst out laughing, I regretted it, I felt like crying. I didn’t hold high hopes for the future. I had managed my expectations and commended my soul to God. My muscles twitched to the beat of the clock. I had shut my eyes to the truth year after year, until the truth decided to settle the score. I don’t care whether it’s Monday or Saturday, day or night. You, my boy, acquainted yourself with miracles throughout your life until the ground under your feet drew level with the sky. Now, you are about to be reunited with your mother. You’ll have to introduce me to Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary. May God bless you both. Over a hundred thousand men were sent to Nineveh. They had been tasked with mending the logic of ...Read more

The Daughter of the Marshlands

Praise the Lord

The Hawizeh Marshes in Iraq, near the Iranian border

The waters are crystal clear. Everything is covered by reeds and seagrass, and water lilies float on the surface. Here, in the south of Iraq, more specifically, in the Hawizeh Marshes, marine vegetation spreads all over a vast territory. It builds the golden houses where the descendants of the Sumerians live, those folks who are said to have crossed the magic emerald doors through which the uproar and babel of the world flees to join a distant past. Twenty square kilometers of permanently submerged ground and over 11,500 kilometers of land lying under water every now and then form the whole extension of this Garden of Eden, which is more commonly referred to as the Water Cities.

It is here in the Water Cities that our hero lives. She belongs to the conservative al-Sawaed tribe and is called the Bedouin because of her contoured eyes and henna-dyed hair, which she always styles into a beautifully shaped bun. She wears the bright colors of the marshland people, which provide her the ...Read more