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For Sham and Sulafa
Your innocent defence shines in me
and I pour my soul into your chest,
I inject it under your skin like a drug.
Night rings its bells,
do you intend to sing?
Those who pray are humbled, in reverence,
by your singular voice
and God listens to it.
He brings you royal food.
Let your steps be wise in the difficult control
of a heart on fire.
Look! The world is turning
and is being taken forcibly from our life
to be given freely to thieves and murderers.
Fill me with fiery passion, my daughter, renew me
for I have rotted in forgetfulness.
It fills my mouth, which is deep and bottomless.
It has corrupted my memory with holes,
with the geometry of hunger,
with the changes of the body.
Bide your time,
linger long in the heart of time
and explode what rarely explodes.
Look! The earth rises with us
so as not to ramble in the air of assumptions;
it advances towards the dream,
it flies like a bubble in the ether of the dream
carrying my children to the azure.
Sham stands in front
and Sulafa shakes the tree of clouds:
all the tears fall,
tears ignored by history,
tears that the ages have denied.
O my daughter,
come let us set our wounds on fire
in the mineral springs of miserable mothers.
Who said that death decays a human being?
Your grandmother has become a star in death’s night,
your imaginary grandmother,
your illusory grandmother,
your enchanted grandmother;
for as soon as life raised its harsh whip,
Your grandmother – the dense trees,
your blue and sometimes
The little ones lament the procession of mothers
humiliated in rooms suspended like boxes
on the edge of darkness
among people sinking to their knees in famine
and spitting on fertility
that has turned against them
and on beds, for they have long been wont
to sleep on the bare ground outdoors.
The little ones bury their heads in the windows
of saints’ shrines, their food bags swinging,
some falling off,
and the rest not enough to feed street dogs.
As for me, my daughter,
I bury myself in the dark, and I weep.
Oh, what loneliness comes to you under your cover
among people sinking to their knees,
wild as they are with hunger and aggression!
Their rooms swing,
filled with an obscure, human uproar.
Their windows tear the darkness
and their stairs squeak,
for they are no longer strong, fresh branches.
Even suffocation cannot suppress their breath . . .
. . . O my daughter, my deep root,
Go and play.
The lover has become a god
because you are made of his madness.
O my daughter,
I was alone, then I broke apart
and have continued to cleave apart
until I created a nation
whose legend you are.
Descendant of village women
who suppress their screams when giving birth
then thrust their foetuses into copper bowls,
as hunger beats its drum in their bellies
and poverty strips bare their bones:
I have kindled you with the greatest desires, despite all that.
You will go from the body’s walls
with generations kindled by your stormy passage.
This is birth. Don’t be afraid –
we are beginning our great battle:
you grasp my shadow and raise it up,
it falls but you raise it up once more,
and it falls again.
You too have a shadow now
and it also falls.
O my little one,
forest of the gods and of creative women,
we suffer the pains of great separation,
we twitch and scream.
My body is torn
as your body is forced onto the world’s first threshold,
then we both scream.
Don’t despair. Follow me,
for in the heart of the unknown jungles,
the jungles of Rimbaud and Lautréamont,
there are wonderful things created for us.
In the heart of the jungles,
there is a tree for dreams,
so follow me.
Translated by Issa J Boullata