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) 

 

En Quelque              

               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.


       Floating.
 
      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?  

Jerusalem  

           to Sapho
 

 

           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

 

H.

It’s strange, that tree

over there

what’s it called,

says H.

If you open the window

at five

in the morning, you’ll see

the type

that drives around,

changing his oil,

then does the rounds again

as if looking for

something 

then parks

his ass on the bench

nearby. And it’s always 

like that. 

Grin gaping

from fear,

a deflective smile. 

Elderly face

at the height of nonsense:

deep

sameness, dark

brown, a surface

riddled with bullets. 

Blackheads

and pockmarks

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. 

You see

that pack of Camels,

what’s on

the 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

dangling

graze the chaos.

Two pigeons

at eye level

take off, ta ta

like shards of laughter

terrified by a rain

of crumbs

alight on the road.

On one of them, among

white plumes

bursts a line

of stark gray. 

It’s a female that they

have just brought here

to overcrowd the roofs

with shit, with

echoes, with

deathly smells

says H.

False life, coo!

And false life

coo

coos

between teeth and on

the purple

teeth of bearded men

who, it seems, besiege

the corners of every dream.

I saw them 

once, again

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

that describes

twirling specks of dust

and thoughts hardened

by desiccation

the building brandishing

a sign

on the roof

among the mirrors,
the parabolas of antennas
where spirits 
and splanchic nerves

converge

the road widens

in a woman’s steps.

All this is shaken
by H. spitting

in the middle of a sentence.

 

 

J.

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

morbid questions

from last night.

J’s stepmother

slept under the canopy

wearing red-orange

plastic earrings

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.

Unease reigns

over the walls.

 

Downstairs

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.

And me—

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,

and vowels.

 

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.

Photo I

 

            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.

 

 

Photo 2

A procession of windows leans over the water.
Night leans with all of its weight onto the thought.
Water touches
the knee of the stranger.

 

 

 

Photo 3

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?

Photo 4

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.

 

 

Photo 5

Diminutively

a shadow

            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
looks.

            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
hinted at

            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

the day.

 

 

                                                                                             

Photo 6

          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
liqueurs,

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.  

 

 

Photo 7

            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
outlines
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
gravitate
now towards
a distant sentence
where the table, the hand, the breadbasket and the dream
            of the book
are things frayed by a great wind
in which
a little dress lives.

 

 

Photo 8

            The page
wider than the surge,

            and the laughing man
in his shirt of foam,

his orange shadow
gives him its migrant
engravings.

            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,

            and also
—what amounts to the same—
the definitive ground of the poet.

 


 

Translated by Lavinia Greenlaw

Photographs

Beyond town

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:

a scrawl

across the threshold of sense.

 

2.

 

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.

 

3.

 

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

recover all

these

scorias

 

and silence

comes

 

after, later

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