so my brother spoke the words of the arbutus
so the mother thickened her sauces with the ash tree’s black resin
 
The female branches made off with the laundry on our lines
the young shoots leapt into our nights
cracked our pavement
The “wanted” poster distributed via winds and tides led to a blackbird
It was he who’d set fire to the forest with a match
He who’d sung Hallelujah mockingly at the old oak tree’s burial
Our careful openings had nothing to do with the mould in the one book we owned
The illiterate mother read its veins
 
© Vénus Khoury-Ghata. By arrangement with the author. Translation  © 2012 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved. 

A quel moment leur langue s'était-elle immiscée dans la nôtre
Que mon frère s'exprima en arbousier
Que la mère lia sa sauce avec la résine noire du frêne

Les branches femelles firent main basse sur le linge suspendu aux cordes
Les pousses juvéniles sautèrent a pieds joints sur nos nuits
  fissurèrent nos pavés
L'avis de recherches lancé via vents et marées mena à un merle
C'est lui qui incendia la forêt avec une allumette
Lui qui chanta I'alléluia d'un ton moqueur à l'enterrement du vieux chêne
Nos ouvertures étroites ne jouaient aucun rôle dans la moisissure du seul livre que nous possédions
  la mère analphabète lisait ses nervures




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.