Remembering Fadwa Suleiman: ‘Two Tears Flooding Paris’

Syrian poet and actor Fadwa Suleiman (1973-2017) died three years ago today in Paris, after a battle with cancer. She was 45:

This poem first appeared in the British magazine The Wolf. It appears here — to celebrate the life and writing of Fadwa Suleiman — with permission.

Two tears flooding Paris

By Fadwa Suleiman

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Ghosts circle the skies of Paris

the Obelisque

Hammurabi’s Code

the portals of Babylon

the jazz singer

who mends ripped roots with his voice

the Indian

leaping out of our memory


and rock fans

all these ghosts circle its waist

with the smell of couscous

and polyester fashion shows

while my bed teems with blood

my words bleed

on the white of funerals

and the red of weddings.

Will the deluge come

from the  Nile, the Tigris or the Euphrates?

Are you here, river Seine?

You have not overflowed your bed

How lucky, the one you choose to be

Noah of a new age

I have dressed in all the costumes of my country

to prepare for the flood

the dove will surely

return to you with his announcement

it will be

a deluge of corpses

and I will wait

facing the black hole

for hope to return

Fadwa Suleiman was born in Aleppo in 1970. Educated at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus , she was a well-known actor in theatre, film and television in Syria until she joined the uprising for citizens’ rights and regime change in 2011.  As a public figure, a member of an Alawite family, and a powerful speaker for the revolution, she became quickly well known, too well known to remain in Syria. She came to France as a political refugee in 2012.  Her first book of poems, As the Moon Rises, was published in Arabic in 2013, and translated into French by Nabil al-Azan. A second collection, In The Dazzling Darkness, was published in a bilingual Arabic-French edition in 2017.  Fadwa Suleiman died of cancer in Paris in 2017.

Marilyn Hacker is the author of more than a dozen books. Her translations of French and Francophone poets include books by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. Her translations from Arabic (of Zakaria Tamer, Golan Haji, Fadwa Suleiman and Yasser Khanjer) have appeared in PN Review, Agni, Prairie Schooner Modern Poetry in Translation, The Paris Review, Words Without Borders, POEM, Critical Muslim, ArabLit Quarterly, and A Public Space. Her awards include the National Book Award, the 2009 American PEN award for poetry in translation, and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris. 


Three poems from Souleiman’s 2014 collection, À la pleine lune, appeared in Marilyn Hacker’s translation in Modern Poetry in Translation in 2017.

Hacker’s translation of Suleiman’s “Genesis” ran in A Public Space

Hacker’s translation of Suleiman’s “The Laurel” appeared in ArabLit Quarterly’s “The Strange” issue in the Spring 2019. It’s available in: Print * PDF * EPub.