Sania Saleh: The Condemned Lakes

As Women in Translation Month 2018 (#WiTMonth) rolls toward its conclusion, a new translation of Sania Saleh’s البحيرات المدانة, translated by acclaimed poet-translator Marilyn Hacker:

The Condemned Lakes

Saniya Salih

By Sania Saleh

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

The condemned lakes
Were suspended from a gap in the map
Like African pearls
Swaying between a hostile wind
And a friendly one

Oh my daughters
Oh you multiple women
Oh little sentinels of the sea
Are you observing the sea’s perfect meal
Its Saviour’s Supper ?
You two multiple little ones
Above the bridges connecting freckles
That spread over a nose and across the cheekbones
And the little kisses that make me
Sad like church steeples
I created you in your Bedouin bed
The world spills its water into the unknown
The heart is the guardian of violence
And the deluge nibbles at your knees.

Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994–2014 (2015) and sixteen books of poetry translations from the French, most recently A Handful of Blue Earth, by Vénus Khoury-Ghata (2017).