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 portals of Babylon
the jazz singer
who mends ripped roots with his voice
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.
Hacker’s translation of Suleiman’s “Genesis” ran in A Public Space