POEMS (Traductions en anglais)
Translated by Sam Ross in Poems For The Milleniumn The University of California Book of North African Literature (760 pages), publiée et commentée par les poètes et traducteurs Pierre Joris et Habib Tengour (University of California Press, Ltd. Berkeley et Los Angeles, 2012)
to Sylvie Germain
And thus, the infinite.
To meet infinity in some new sea, under a cliff dug into the night. Cliffs. Winters produced a singular loneliness.
Neither good nor bad omens, but the coming of what’s unexpected. A nakedness, for the first time, white, advancing
a dark disturbance in the water.
Thin fingers trace familiar air.
Then a knot ties and loosens in the chest and stomach, quick as a drum roll and no matter what it says—
Sliced stones. Blades.
Endlessly these lines, spaces and folds of meaning.
After, long after, on the edge of a cliff, and without bringing the question to the instant of death, sudden blood on breasts, neck straining slightly, whiteness even whiter and saved by a temporary heaven, Everything, by some strange trick, having spoken of the fragile passage between presence and savage absence.
Huge rats skulking around.
Clash of dream against dream, aggravated by a murmur of faith.
Above the forehead, great crackling—relentless, chronic as insomnia—opens an unfinished chapter most likely defying the book
and striking the poem’s gate.
The knot, the nakedness, a subtle gesture toward the infinitesimal and a tremor —an alignment of unusual edges. Sounds, clashing sounds abounding.
Heaven repairs each of these things. In brief intervals, what’s pierced, each by an eye —like that procession of leaders’ comforts. An umber circle surrounds the eye, the sea and the sky.
(And it’s sky, not earth, which melted while looking at the earth).
And letters to a leader were already scattered, wrapped in a cold Sunday—say a cold Sunday in summer.
And tell me,
says the stranger to his best friend during breakfast, philosophical as always:
Between one cliff and another, wasn’t there a faint echo of the name Tobias?
Two phases of the moon separated by a wire of blood, twisted around a void.
Thus the void. Sheer. Even so, a spiral crawls up, like a gene.
(Think of the gaps in a DNA sketch).
An old kinship turns pale green.
Left and right, the number 1, everywhere split and planted, raised from a sort of cement or metal hat. Graves, remains, walls, skylights, invocations filled with spirits. Forbidding signs. From time to time, the sky, no—a fog
strung along with tanks and stone wings.
Stretched out in my bed, I see dry branches out the window—just the tops of them, thin and bare.
Of course, there’s a trunk, roots, hill behind—unless some artifice glued them to my gazing sleep.
It doesn’t matter.
There’s what I see and what I don’t see. But for some hours, a woman’s voice has made me friendly. A tune naked as the branches passing through it, catchy, divine.
Outside, a radio crackles and spits the usual news: the whole city, west and east, has been stuffed into a missile.
Other poems traslated by Sam Ross
It’s strange, that tree
what’s it called,
If you open the window
in the morning, you’ll see
that drives around,
changing his oil,
then does the rounds again
as if looking for
his ass on the bench
nearby. And it’s always
a deflective smile.
at the height of nonsense:
brown, a surface
riddled with bullets.
of all sizes.
Diagonal, a scar
marks an old
dispute with the world.
My mother’s face, crazy
and strange, that tree
which each night
conjures a guy to piss
on its roots.
that pack of Camels,
it’s a camel
and if you look close between
the two hind legs
you’ll see a little guy
pissing. And it’s the same.
Every night, every
night, I see it,
it fucking wakes me up
and I can’t go back to sleep.
And I just don’t get it.
My spine feels eighty
in a body of thirty five.
And the whole entire sky
begins to the left
then erases itself.
I am skyless.
On the walls, some windows
graze the chaos.
at eye level
take off, ta ta
like shards of laughter
terrified by a rain
alight on the road.
On one of them, among
bursts a line
of stark gray.
It’s a female that they
have just brought here
to overcrowd the roofs
with shit, with
False life, coo!
And false life
between teeth and on
teeth of bearded men
who, it seems, besiege
the corners of every dream.
I saw them
I climbed, I climbed
the stairs, the open door
ajar at night.
And the spark.
They heat the blades.
Clank and hammer
blowtorch and swords
and they construct a plan for a holy town
in the path of projectiles.
The light now
is a green foam;
the wind, a spinning top
twirling specks of dust
and thoughts hardened
the building brandishing
on the roof
among the mirrors,
the parabolas of antennas
and splanchic nerves
the road widens
in a woman’s steps.
All this is shaken
by H. spitting
in the middle of a sentence.
Noon snores under
a leaden sheet. Air is touched
with a humid fever,
and I don’t know why
I think suddenly
of those bizarre coughs
spat by my grandmother
on her deathbed.
Cigarette butts arranged
to give the room
the appearance of a chessboard
without a king,
where they play the role
of suicidal pawns.
On my face I find
from last night.
slept under the canopy
and her African divinity
around her neck.
Her hand feels the absence
of an old boyfriend
who abandoned her
for a girl from Savoie
he met in the Place d’Italie
in Paris, and fucked
in a sculpture studio
on the outskirts of Marseilles.
Following her waking
ritual, she sings a bit of
the Fauré requiem, describes
her unfinished dream
where her old boyfriend
squeezes her breasts
lovingly, then her neck.
over the walls.
the street is like the photo
I left on the radiator:
an old woman twisting her body
to look at the sky
while a black cat
thinks he’s a car
in the middle of the road.
A man throws leaflets
from the fourth floor
to decorate the lawn.
I continue to look
for sentences in the corners
of clouds hanging from the building.
I close the window the way
I close a book of fantasy,
so as to prevent the sordid
reality from penetrating
my head of lies, shadows,
I descend the stairs
enveloped in a massive stench
and I find the sentences
in a bus stop opposite sick trees
waiting to be chopped down.
One sentence says to the other
that the tree is a metaphor
waiting to be killed.
And we confront it, we breathe oils
of leaves crushed by sorry passersby
and we claim to have an anger
expressing their destiny.
Chance leaps on my shoulder
and I utter without knowing it
another word drawing attention
to my teeth in the street’s present.
Love, mind, insults or investigation—
I don’t know,
but the sentences begin to address
my neurosis with a sweetness
that is almost suspicious.
J’s stepmother opens the window
and nervously tosses out my alarm.
I step on the bus, leaving the sentences
to contemplate their meaning.
I can imagine the scattering
numbers on the sidewalk
announcing my next poem.
Above the bridge I don’t know. Below, the town I’m from.
Between the two,
the staircase opening more and more, and turning to
staple itself to the wall or to cling to it.
In blue night, something like sense or sensitivity is inscribed.
In the middle, there is the night.
A metal bar divides these same stairs into two collarbones
and ends with a kind of frozen larynx
in the mouth of the bridge.
I hear my dry cough, and all of this becomes a reminder of my chest
with a similar metal sternum, the relatively sensible flow of air,
and of that something charred in the manner of graffiti
onto the threshold of sense.
A procession of windows leans over the water.
Night leans with all of its weight onto the thought.
the knee of the stranger.
Lasting all night, a red line rises like an electric stake or sex or a sore throat,
its reflection crosses the bridge and resists the darkness.
For the first time, I see a layer of gold leaf, fresh at the edge of the time
of bitumen and night.
Beyond parapets, the town lies like a dream neither good nor bad.
Some green buds out of windows.
And maybe, is there a way that would give me a cigarette or a violent grimace?
On this side,
the shadow of the bridge on the bridge spreads with a thud.
On this side,
the shadow of the bridge climbs up even the ancient wall that supports it.
On this side,
layers of light descend to the riverbed, without anyone to pay attention.
An evening of bronze and copper rushes into my mouth.
lent to the street—this one which is absent as if—
as if a device was slyly moved like a curtain to filter the light
and eliminate signs
of some season—
as if a framework that framed the shadow, abandoned the street and jutted against the wall.
The shadow also—like a hand or a tree on its hind legs. Its spurs scratch the wall. And it is only beyond
that the city
House chimneys parallel to factory chimneys. Nothing else to see.
The wall, infinity. And also, at the entrance to the sky, venules of omniscience, who knows where, just a maze of thin branches transmitted to smoke by
another tree. At the end, it is the obvious night
by the photographer. That in which literally I slipped, and bent over backwards to get out of. Out. To join
the surf, which is at its highest in
Photo of war (Beirut)
Well-aligned doors. Some keys of light garnish the keyholes. Billboard — the shutter has closed on the shadow of a finger passing over the leg. The leg so close one sees a thin coating of lines and granules wrapping it. A television screen seems to speak. A garbage man picks up with a rough hand the whole night of a past
which has just been told.
On the top of a wall along the alley a few segments of old sentences,
(I only read the wear).
I also perceive black silhouettes veiled in white, spotted with black,
courtyards chiseled in the manner of a book and there where there is shadow, there is insomnia and the awakening of all scree —
line and interline, nuts and nutshells.
A tanned river along a war without meaning. And the glowing heart full of dark
Welcomes, at dawn, the mad history of a city with a hatchet.
No one claims to acquire the fulfillment of this madness at this hour of thorns.
A hand. A table to qualify the seasons. A chair facing the book
And the photo of an ancient sultan
grazes the mildew of a wall.
And how I love this winter! Walking in a clay that
a path to oblivion and to enter in a place of angels
and to see
the place of women
hit by the sea,
to walk towards the drunk outline of this ineffable life
where I created the fabric of truth,
what is me in me
in a rumor to come.
The names of my dead
a distant sentence
where the table, the hand, the breadbasket and the dream
of the book
are things frayed by a great wind
a little dress lives.
wider than the surge,
and the laughing man
in his shirt of foam,
his orange shadow
gives him its migrant
We see shells prowling around
a month of injury.
My love… he says,
and the laughter still sends tulips
to hallucinating stones
transforming the bed, the ink,
—what amounts to the same—
the definitive ground of the poet.
Translated by Lavinia Greenlaw
I come to a bridge I do not know.
The steps on either side flare
and fold back against the loose walls
as if to staple them in place.
In the deep blue of the evening
I can make out only the start of a word,
perhaps sense or sensitive …
In the midst of everything, night falls.
The steps spread like shoulder blades
on either side of an iron rail reaching into
what might be the voicebox
in the mouth of the bridge.
I cannot ignore my cough,
and everything it carries
up the stairs of my ribs.
The iron breastbone.
The passage delicate enough for breath.
Something scribbled in charcoal:
across the threshold of sense.
Rows of windows tip themselves onto the river.
The night leans with all its weight on the mind.
For the stranger, it is like wading through water.
On one side
the drone of the river casts the bridge’s shadow.
On the other side
the shadow of a bridge climbs the old wall
that keeps it in place.
On another side
light sinks, layer by layer, to the bed of the river
without anyone noticing.
The bronze and copper of the evening
sink into my mouth.
Translated by Norbert Bugeja and Emilie Jones
So I say someone is talking, so I say someone is talking for me, so I say someone is talking for me when I’m talking, and inside me it is the silence I wanna emit, but words emerge flashing, brightness, confused
The night, above everything, ineffable
and the ripples which follow
Each of the jumps contains smaller jumps, each concise and chiseled as a diagram, smaller, hardly decipherable.
A woman says: I don’t know all the heights of your jumps, I still don’t know. And the night comes through the window; the night gives the window the sharp of a cat’s eye. A darkness surrounds the eyes; syllables, syllable after syllable, thin slices; that’s all that’s left