To the memory of Tahar Djaout*
on the day of his funeral
The earth opens and welcomes you Why these cries, these tears these prayers What have they lost What are they looking for those who trouble your refound peace? The earth opens and welcomes you Now you will converse without witnesses O you have things to tell each other and you'll have eternity to do so Yesterday's words tarnished by the tumult will one by one engrave themselves on silence The earth opens and welcomes you She alone has desired you without you making any advances She has waited for you with Penelopian ruses. Her patience was but goodness and it is goodness brings you back to her The earth opens and welcomes you she won't ask you to account for your ephemeral loves daughters of errancy meat stars conceived in the eyes accorded fruits from the vast orchard of life sovereign passions that make sun in the palm's hollow at the tip of the tipsy tongue The earth opens and welcomes you You are naked She is even more naked than you And you are both beautiful in that silent embrace where the hands know how to hold back to avoid violence where the soul's butterfly turns away from this semblance of light to go in search of its source The earth opens and welcomes you Your loved one will find again some day your legendary smile and the mourning will be over Your children will grow up and will read your poems without shame your country will heal as if by miracle when the men exhausted by illusion will go drink from the fountain of your goodness O my friend sleep well you need it for you have worked hard as an honest man Before leaving you left your desk clean well ordered You turned off the lights said a nice word to the guardian And then as you stepped out you looked at the sky its near-painful blue You elegantly smoothed your mustache telling yourself: only cowards consider death to be an end Sleep well my friend Sleep the sleep of the just let us for awhile carry the burden
Créteil, June 4, 1993
From The World's Embrace by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Translation copyright © 2003 by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Reproduced by permission of City Lights Publishers. All rights reserved.