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Poetry From the August 2011 issue: The Arab Spring, Part II

The Fountain

La Fontaine

When the inscrutable
embraces sluggish time
spreading its invisible light between two suspended shores
rags of screams, a flight of black cloth
spread a hollow vertigo
down the native alley

Sanctuaries in ruins, fathomless crypts,
sepulchres with no remains merge
above a beaded sheet
wrapped around the earth’s flank

The eye of silence peers
and sinks into the snowed-up scene
tears it up like a lightning-blade
digs the earth to the bone
a grave for the wandering woman

Copyright Aïcha Arnaout. Translation copyright 2011 by Cécile Oumhani. All rights reserved.

Alors que l’hermétique
épouse la lenteur du temps
diffusant son invisible lueur entre deux rives suspendues
quelques lambeaux de cris, une envolée d’étoffe noire sèment le vertige creux
et parcourent l’impasse d’origine

Sanctuaires démolis, cryptes sans fond,
sépulcres sans dépouilles se confondent
au-dessous d’une nappe emperlée
couvrant le flanc de la terre

L’œil du silence scrute
puis s’enfonce dans la scène enneigée
la déchire telle une lame d’éclair  
et creuse jusqu'à l’os de la terre
une tombe pour l’errante.

Aïcha ArnaoutAïcha Arnaout

Born in Damascus, Aïcha Arnaout has been living in Paris since 1978. A poet and a novelist, she writes in French and in Arabic. Her poems have been translated into several languages. Her books include Eau et Cendre, Fragments d’Eau, La Fontaine with Alain Gorius, and La Traversée du Blanc.


Translated from FrenchFrench by Cécile OumhaniCécile Oumhani

Cécile Oumhani has always lived in a multicultural background. Born in Belgium, she grew up in France and was in constant epistolary touch with her Canadian relatives. Tunisia wove itself into her life later. Associate professor at the Université de Paris-Est Créteil, she is a poet and a novelist. Her books of poems are published by Voix d’encre. Two of them were translated into Russian and published by Kommentarii in 2008. Pen Press Ediciones published Los instantes silenciosos, a Spanish translation of her poems. She participates in numerous anthologies and festivals. Several of her novels are set in Tunisia and deal with issues like exile, otherness and mixed identities. Les racines du mandarinier was translated into Croatian and published by Ljevak in 2007. A Serbian translation was published by Stylos art in 2009. Le café d’Yllka won the Prix Littéraire Européen de l’ADELF in 2009. Barbes Editore published an Italian translation in 2010.