The poem posted below, according to Negrouche, “happened when a trip to Cairo had to be canceled. I was invited for a seminar a few times before the main protests in Tahrir Square — it took a few weeks before it was clear this was totally canceled. During that time, all my attention went to what was happening in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Damascus, Sanaa. I remembered every detail and every person I knew in each city: my last trip to Morocco during the February protests, the recent situation in my country, the images from the news… I wouldn’t say everything mixed up, but I had the feeling it was somehow connected, with of course specificities in each country. It was, for me, even connected to what then appeared in Greece, in Spain…. I wanted to write down the little trip that was going on in my mind, linking images as if they were at times a whole same story.
“Actually, in the original text, I only use the first letter of each city. Mentioning the Toubkal was clearly about Morocco, but the image — or the essence of it — could have been Damascus or Tunis.
“The English version has its own life, and this is what I like and admire about Marilyn Hacker’s work, it never feels like a translation. There aren’t flow accidents when I read her translations.
“These fragments were finalized in January 2012, and while I use some details very specific to that period, I think they perhaps have more sense today, with a certain distance. I don’t know, what do you think?”
An interview with Negrouche is set to appear on ArabLit tomorrow.
SEVEN LITTLE JASMINE MONOLOGUES
By Samira Negrouche, translated by Marilyn Hacker
light shot up its way
like an angel fallen in love
with green colored
Shadows as black as the walls’ whiteness
cover the infinite depth of the
Etel Adnan: A lime tree and then another
He’s gone that man and I no longer know what I’m waiting for. Surfaces covered over passed by along the blank wall or even surfaces torn to shreds during the night, laid out along the avenues and even within interior walls, faces and surfaces of our dreams the man. He arrives, nascent morning shadows, dead lanes and alleyways resonating, breathing like a bottle on the ground. It happens that his hand grasps worries my shoulder with its sharp fingers. My back under the man’s hand and the alley whistles and the bottle turns over. I am not waiting, the man has flown off with I don’t know what in his pockets I don’t know what in his eyes of a man with cutting fingers I don’t know what in his ears, silent within his head which dictates the vertical movement from below to above, I don’t know what the man who does not look at a man and gives orders and loses his patience. The surface has gone, has left the blank walls the inner walls and the summer palaces. I am not waiting for the abyss of years abandoned by the January man on the cold tarmac, years now gone.
Green a certain shade of green dilates my eyes and eases my breath slows down the erratic stampede hammering on the walls of my thorax but green even that green doesn’t go with my complexion and however silken it might be my skin refuses it who knows why ! The only green that pleases me is wide infinite spaces panoramic landscapes that the field of vision cannot inhabit alone. I still move forward, black triangle I’m not afraid of the desert, like the dunes like the sand I enter everywhere and continue moving forward and the weight of the black tent does not stop me from crawling and the minuscule openings in the black cone do not keep me from seeing beyond I move forward under cover and no one sees anything but a black tent among other black triangles in the landscape of blinded and blinding sun. Through indirect tunnels and on streets from which I’m kept away from houses where I’m confined I advance and I see and I deflect the green to my own use . In my black dune I flow to the shore and offer my djilbab-string to the sea.
The alarm clock went off late and Marseilles that morning bitter coffee on the rue de Rome deflected along all its length the s lives in the e and the street could not care less about propriety spirit misted over that morning head raised a sheet is hanging from a balcony « Beethoven is a Manouche » We are all Roms and Beethoven is a revolution. The air burns me in Tahrir Square and we are all acrobats comedians minorities the crowd of one man and a woman alone in the crowd. Come forward with your pharoah’s old clogs and scrub the mud off your head. Oum Kalthoum is a Manouche and Naguib and Shahin and all those whom you no longer hear are the revolution. The Colossus rakes the square and sweeps away as insignificant detritus the vaginas broken and entered the eyes gouged out in precaution the prayers shared mingled the words chanted stolen. Crowd of all dangers, freedom is a chiseled symphony. The Colossus persists, with his huge hands he sweeps up the guitar on the ground ; on the guitar-case dozens of stickers : No to military trials of civilians !
Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres on dusty roads, caravan of withered legs skimpy soles that move forward becoming denser as if weighed down with oversized bags as if liberated from unloaded cargo Aden the sea breeze becomes more distant with each step I offer you my back and the ivory of my skin burned a hundred times by the day-labouring sun crossing clambering in the crowd of passers-by placing the grain a hundred times on others’ threshholds. Surging onto the road faces determined or resigned this road that seems to lead only to the center of the metaphor but still cuts the illusion short.
Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres to set fire to my shaven head let it catch fire let it thin out the horizon and change the weather above the close-ranked columns of men and slogans to each step taken let it add one more and let the city roads never arrive from the ancient heights.
Holy Man of fertile valleys of sculpted columns of the fine-carved lute they live in your dwelling place and claim to have your wisdom they pretend to your inheritance but taste only its colored spices they kiss your tomb read your verses and agree to the offering they stand tall and speak of dignity they speak fraternally and claim to be gods. Holy man in your land souls left the wall’s shadow and surged up as One their burgeoning shadows were arrested and they remained One their eyelashes were broken their gaze smothered and they remained One. The One who persists and comes forward and finally speaks and reveals the deception. On your lands and on the land of the One, Holy Man, the brothers have come from the four corners of the ancient kingdom of the Maghreb the Mashreq the Hidjaz they have come the brothers who embrace your wisdom and on the threshold of your doorway they closed the windows of their eyelashes and at the hearth of the One they veiled their senses and spoke in the name of the son. Holy man of the fertile valleys a bicycle rolls across the heart of your wisdom and now the Heights are merely firing ranges.
I have my Toubkal cousins’ precise and deadly way of talking impenetrable skin and the gaze of Thanina elusive eagle. On my unattainable mountain the song of the red wellspring comes to me the echo of the Atlantic the coastal islands and defeated hooves fleeing the almond trees. I have my Toubkal cousins’ attentive silence about the Folklore squares, the fire-eaters, the choreographed marriages, the rented arses and the two-dirham Hriras. At my Toubkal cousins’ home the luxury of the destitute puts an end to Andalusia and the pauper poses, his leg extended toward the bootblack. And when at the height of virtuous feelings small-time monarchs of a cobbled-together celebration a mother on holiday sipping orange juice at nearly midnight a mother finds the smile of the plucky child beautiful the smile of the little girl who on the square at nearly midnight is selling a packet of tissues to the mother whose children are already asleep already dreaming when the mother admires that smile Grenada is lost forever.
On this morning cracked with disappointments when blue has left the sea to invade the hill in a uniformed chain tightening on the diminishing crowds. Midnight aborts the day leaving the Casbah to its rubbish and fragments. I appeal to the memory of Algiers from its seaside bars to the tanks of the occupation, I appeal to Hassiba to Djamila to Didouche and to Boudiaf to the ancestors and to the amnesiacs to the rapists of dreams and to the perpetual traitors I appeal to every drop spilled to every humiliation let the bay gush forth at last and let it inhabit us let it open our senseless eyelids let Al Anka and the besieged diwans awaken let the doorways of our houses open and let a new song arise. Let the TGV Express awaken, let it bring back the breeze from Tanger and let it start a new route from Tunis to Alexandria and from Beirut to Istanbul. Let a new day open and let Midnight be fragrant with jasmine.
Samira Negrouche was born in Algiers in 1980. She is the author of several poetry collections including: À l’ombre de Grenade, Iridienne, and Cabinet Secret – a work with Enan Burgos.
Negrouche writes in French and translates Arabic poetry and has participated in interdisciplinary projects involving drama, video, photography and plastic arts. Le jazz des oliviers was published in Algeria by Tell in 2010 and was subsequently translated and published in Italy the following year.
In Paris, she recently published an anthology of contemporary francophone Algerian poets, Quand l’amandier refleurira (Editions de l’Amandier), and has created a show called “Soleils” that focuses on francophone Algerian poetry from the Thirties up to the present day.
Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, most recently A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1995-2014 (Norton, 2015), an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (Michigan, 2010), DiaspoRenga, a collaborative book written with Deema Shehabi (Holland Park Press, 2014) and the translator of sixteen books from the French, including Emmanuel Moses’ Preludes and Fugues (Oberlin, 2016), Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Where Are the Trees Going (Northwestern, 2014) and Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head (Yale, 2012).