MUFID MAJID AWJI

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                   25 - 7 - 1992

 

Autobiographical note about the poem "Mufid Majid Awji"

This poem was written deep in the past, during one of those dark years of my fifteen years of being locked up in Costa Rica without a passport.

The poem remembers Mufid Majid Awji, friend and colleague, during a very short but extremely intensive period of my life, from September 1955 to May or June 1956, while we both worked with the Iraq Petroleum Company of Kirkuk at the oil drilling camp of Jambour near Dakouk. We worked in morning, afternoon and night shifts. We worked for different departments. He was at that time a baby-driller, which in the jargon of oil drilling is equivalent to say a trainee to become a driller. I worked as mud-tester with the Chemical Department. Since we both worked at rigs and drilling sites, our shifts coincided from time to time. I was nineteen and had just graduated from high school, Mufid was perhaps in his early twenties.
In summer 1956 I was transferred to work at the Injana oilfield near Tuzkhourmatu and in Autumn I left the IPC and joined a teacher training course in Kirkuk. We never met again after that although we lived in Kirkuk and I continued to live there for six years more before leaving to Baghdad in 1962.

Mufid belonged to one of Kirkuk´s oldest and richest Turcoman families, the Awchi family. He was a quiet, gentle, very polite person, modern and open-minded, witty and a lover of nature.

The first stanza of the poem makes reference to our wanderings during the spring of 1956 while we worked at Well No. 2. During the intensive spring of those arid Jambour hills when our morning shifts coincided we preferred to walk to the camp when our shift ended instead of taking the crew truck. We walked the distance of about two hours, observing the virgin spring landscape, plants, wild flowers, green hills, little valleys with rests of water from spring rain, mud and earth with traces and patterns left over by the water that flooded them during short intensive spring downpours. And we walked and talked and talked.

The second stanza makes reference to our night shifts. Before ascending the crew truck waiting to take us to the drilling site, I would pass by his bungalow and find him dressing with his radio on and the green magic eye of the radio radiating that cool green light. And he would say, "Putting again the wolf´s skin on!" He referred to the rough clothes we put on when working as "wolf´s skin". In fact, our work was considered one of the toughest and dirtiest jobs. We always worked under the open sky. There was always oil, mud, noise, hard physical work. Sometimes we worked in biting cold and under rain. When gas or oil leaked or shot up everything got messed up and we would work for eight continuous hours until the emergency was over. This is the reason why rig and oil drilling workers are nicknamed "rough necks".
Precisely because of those harsh work conditions I loved that work. Never again after that one year at oilfields did I have a work that responded so much to my very nature and character. I simply loved that work, its natural milieu and the un-mediated relation to nature it permitted me to have.
Further, the poem refers to the site of Well No. 3, situated just at the bank of the Tawuk Sou river near the bridge.

The third stanza tries to use early morning scenery combined with hints about a travelling mother which is my mother.

Sometimes, when remembering friends like Mufid who were evidently persons whose character fitted very well with my character, I wonder why I didn´t care to continue those emerging friendships. They came into my life and went away without any effort on my part to conserve those relations. Is this the normal destiny of some friendships in life. Or is it the learning process and its ups and downs that produce this.
One thing is certain, when I remember those friendship that died on the way, I long for them and feel their discontinuation as a painful personal loss that at times amount to an acute sense of tragedy and death. Nevertheless, this sharp pain produces in my Iraqi heart and emotionality its contradicting state and mood: brilliant hope and strong intimate attachment to life. Thus, loss becomes gain whose value and beauty nothing can eclipse, neither momentary or prolonged suffering, nor repression, nor the passing of time, nor insanities of human life, nor death. Life can not be compared to pain, suffering and death. It is much more powerful and richer; life in its totality is the purest beauty and freedom.

Bless you Mufid, good soul and fine person, wherever you may be.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
San José, February 12, 2005