his right shoulder lower than his left
heavy with rocky snowfalls from such endurance
It’s his motionless breath that fissures our walls in the night when one winter hands
   power over to another
The deaf bluetit’s wing-beats count for nothing
nor the mother’s invectives guilty of having grouted the tiles with her tears
 
Yet the storm announced festive disorder
erosion polished up by subtle winds
Everything smiled at us
and the mother who wore her tears around her neck like warm-sea pearls
counted them on our fingers that grew with the Persian lilac, the only one to
   sympathize with our sorrows
 
© Vénus Khoury-Ghata. By arrangement with the author. Translation  © 2012 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved. 

Dieu, clamait la mère, se tient derrière tous les arbres de la forêt
L'epaule droite plus basse que la gauche
     lourde de neiges pierreuses à force d’endurance
C'est son souffle immobile qui fissura nos murs la nuit de passation entre deux hivers
Les battements d'ailes de la mésange sourde ne jouaient aucun rôle
ni les invectives de la mère coupable d'avoir cimenté les tuiles avec ses larmes

Pourtant la tempête annonçait des désordres festifs
Des dégradations fignolées par vents subtils
Tout nous souriait
Et la mère qui portait ses larmes autour du cou telles perles des mers chaudes
Les comptait sur nos doigts qui grandissaient avec la Lilas de Perse
     Le seul à compatir à nos malheurs




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.