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Poetry

Beneath a Pile of Rubble

By Djamal Amrani
Translated from French by Marilyn Hacker
The poet eulogizes the revolutionary fighter and guerilla leader of Algeria's National Liberation Front, Ali la Pointe.

Pour Ali la Pointe

Here where each day calls out to our suffering

Here where each step chains our desire for hope

Here where everything cries out misfortune violence famine

Here where blood is confirmed silently and grief gains ground

He died. Died buried under a pile of rubble

While he trampled hatred down with his proud blood

So that the roots of his impatient people

Would grow knotty in the shadow of the flag

Gray tears, so slow to cool

Endurances curved round the sacred fire

Because they wanted to condemn our long

Arid thankless processions to the shadows

Because they wanted to tear up our lives

At the borders of oblivion

Ali La Pointe, son of a land that took up arms

Sole penance, disturbing spacious nights

Who wrestled down infamy, devoured disdain

At first sight of their guns

Here he is indicting at one more meeting

Their blood-gorged breath; he is there

For those who know the universe at the dark hour

Of Servitudes

Furies of one shared past!

His face—mirror of cruelties—where a chorus of cries

Fuses our hope, sharpens our freedom

Here he is again, living hostage in the wrinkles around

Our eyes where the new sun has driven away

Shame and emptiness forever. I say: spotted, wrinkled, polished fruits.

We sow because death is determined

Because death is stronger than hunger

O mother country, he called you Certainty before his rapture

Then gave himself to the flames to restore

Your sovereign brightness.

Yesterday strapped down once more by insults of the lords and masters

Swallowed up by incest misery

He loved the humble, set tenderness free

Devoured the past

At the multiple hour of inheritance

When our joy tells the beads of present freedoms

When his name is whispered in our silences

I cry out: Child of the Casbah

Spring thaw on the ramparts

You broke the chains of the forbidden gardens

 

“Sous un tas de décombres” © Djamal Amrani. Translation © 2019 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved.  

English French

Pour Ali la Pointe

Here where each day calls out to our suffering

Here where each step chains our desire for hope

Here where everything cries out misfortune violence famine

Here where blood is confirmed silently and grief gains ground

He died. Died buried under a pile of rubble

While he trampled hatred down with his proud blood

So that the roots of his impatient people

Would grow knotty in the shadow of the flag

Gray tears, so slow to cool

Endurances curved round the sacred fire

Because they wanted to condemn our long

Arid thankless processions to the shadows

Because they wanted to tear up our lives

At the borders of oblivion

Ali La Pointe, son of a land that took up arms

Sole penance, disturbing spacious nights

Who wrestled down infamy, devoured disdain

At first sight of their guns

Here he is indicting at one more meeting

Their blood-gorged breath; he is there

For those who know the universe at the dark hour

Of Servitudes

Furies of one shared past!

His face—mirror of cruelties—where a chorus of cries

Fuses our hope, sharpens our freedom

Here he is again, living hostage in the wrinkles around

Our eyes where the new sun has driven away

Shame and emptiness forever. I say: spotted, wrinkled, polished fruits.

We sow because death is determined

Because death is stronger than hunger

O mother country, he called you Certainty before his rapture

Then gave himself to the flames to restore

Your sovereign brightness.

Yesterday strapped down once more by insults of the lords and masters

Swallowed up by incest misery

He loved the humble, set tenderness free

Devoured the past

At the multiple hour of inheritance

When our joy tells the beads of present freedoms

When his name is whispered in our silences

I cry out: Child of the Casbah

Spring thaw on the ramparts

You broke the chains of the forbidden gardens

 

“Sous un tas de décombres” © Djamal Amrani. Translation © 2019 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved.  

Sous un tas de décombres

Pour Ali la Pointe

 

Ici où chaque jour appelait la souffrance

Ici où chaque pas liait nos volontés d’espoir

Ici où tout criait malheur violence famine

Ici où sourdement le sang se vérifiait et la peine se gagnait

Il a péri. Il a péri enseveli sous un tas de décombres

alors qu’il piétinait les haines de son sang large

pour que les racines de son peuple impatient

se fassent noueuses à l’orée du Drapeau.

Ô ! larmes grises lentes à refroidir

Ô ! patiences incurvées jusqu’au feu sacré

Parce qu’ils ont voulu condamner aux ténébres

nos marches longues et arides

Parce qu’ils ont voulu déchirer nos vies aux frontières

de l’oubli

Ali la Pointe, fils d’une patrie en armes

l’unique des pénitences, le trouble des nuits spacieuses

terrassait l’infâme dévorait le mépris

aux premiers signes des fusils.

Le voici qui accuse au rassemblement du jour

les souffles nourris de sang : il est là

pour ceux qui connaissent l’univers à l’heure grave

des servitudes

Ô furies d’un même passé !

Son visage – miroir de cruautés – où en chœur des cris

soudent l’espérance, aiguise nos libertés

Le voici encore – otage vivant dans les rides de nos yeux

où un soleil nouveau a chassé à jamais la honte et le néant

Je dis : fruits creusés, tavelés, raffinés

On ensemence car la mort se dédie

Car sa MORT est plus forte que la faim.

Ô mère patrie il t’a nommée certitude avant l’extase

Puis il s’est livré aux flammes afin que soit rendu

ton souverain éclat

Hier encore sanglé par l’insulte des seigneurs

englouti par l’inceste misère

il a aimé les humbles affranchi les tendresses

consumé le passé

À l’heure multiple de l’héritage

Quand nos  joies égrènent les libertés présentes

Quand son nom se chuchote dans le silence de nos voix

Je crie : Enfant de la Casbah

Dégel de nos remparts

Tu as brisé la maille des jardins interdits

et tous ces chants pour toi que j’offre

à mon prochain.

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