the mother looked like the linden tree in the square
like the wood of the table on which she wrote our faces
like the log that didn’t sweat or complain about the smoke
dead
she began to avoid us
turned her back to the mirror to the moon to the skylight
less dead
she would say that the moon was a loaf of bread baked between two stones
 
A moon doesn’t fill a bread-box
doesn’t plug up the cracks in the sink
doesn’t sweep the crumbs of quarrels under the table
doesn’t lengthen the swallow’s hair
the moon was more of a moon during her lifetime
the foxes who recognized her by her smell didn’t light their matches
 
Dead
the mother was divided up between three holes 
 
© Vénus Khoury-Ghata. By arrangement with the author. Translation  © 2012 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved. 
 
Morte
La mère ressemblait au tilleul de la place
Au bois de la table sur laquelle elle écrivait nos visages
A la bûche qui ne transpkait pas ni ne se plaignait de sa fumée
Morte
Elle se mit à nous éviter
Tourna le dos au miroir à la lune à la lucarne
Moins morte
Elle disait la lune pain cuit entre deux pierres
      
Une lune ne remplit pas une huche
Ne colmate pas les fissures de 1'évier
Ne balaie pas les miettes des disputes sous la table
N'allonge pas les cheveux de 1'hirondelle
La lune était plus lune de son vivant
Les renards qui la reconnaissaient au flak retenaient leurs allumettes
  
Morte
La mère fut répartie entre trois trous



Vénus Khoury-GhataVénus Khoury-Ghata

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese poet and novelist who lives in France. She received the Prix Mallarmé in 1987 for Monologue du mort, the Prix Apollinaire in 1980 for Les Ombres et leurs cris, and the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres for Fables pour un peuple d'argile in 1992. Her Anthologie personelle, a selection of her previously published and new poems, appeared in 1997. Her other collections include Elle dit (1999); La Compassion des Pierres (2000) and Quelle est la nuit parmi les nuits (2004). Her volumes in English, translated by Marilyn Hacker, include Here There Was Once a Country (2000); She Says (2003); and A House at the Edge of Tears (2005).

Translated from FrenchFrench by Marilyn HackerMarilyn Hacker

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poems, including Names (Norton, 2009), Essays on Departure (Carcanet Press, UK, 2006), and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003). Her essay collection Unauthorized Voices was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2010. Her twelve volumes of translations from the French include Rachida Madani's Tales of a Severed Head (Yale University Press, 2012); Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), which received the 2007 Robert Fagles Translation Prize and the 2009 American PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; Hédi Kaddour’s Treason (Yale University Press, 2010); and Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Nettles (The Graywolf Press, 2008). For her own work, she is a past recipient of the Lenore Marshall Award, the Poets’ Prize, the National Book Award , two Lambda Literary Awards, the American PEN Voelcker Award for poetry in 2010, and the Argana International Poetry Prize from the Bayt As-Shir/ House of.Poetry in Morocco in 2012. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.