Celebration of the Absent One
Translated from French by Marilyn Hacker For Eliane, Mireille, and Regina We dreamed of a phlegmatic life for you of sleep and siestas sweet things, an honorable luxury a carpet of rich flowers at your feet to put your fears to sleep —Malek Alloula, The Exercise of the Senses Death’s dust has disrobed you even of your soul —Pierre Jean Jouve, Matière céleste A Algeria whose whiteness flowed into lead A black decade / years of blood Rupture Algeria, la Maison Blanche Austere welcome of the patriarch in his tight-fitting borrowed suit who knew the rites of passage the institution’s stringent checks Arrivals and departures both distressing S Songbirds, the innocent larks at the border of Saint-Cloud So many memories Eliane told me Simple choices solid ties Impatience to know the city’s every corner Thirsty beneath the blinking neon But you always did your homework S Slip from the frame to shape the film A new world opening in the red Salutary progression where you speak and Give voice to peasant women joyously Telling their stories A thirst to speak You burst through the screen I Impatient red desire the dazzling meeting Passage Camels Impatient to live A All that black: no sooner liberated Medina’s women excluded from the procession Disinherited Denial of the Messenger’s daughter Rue Eugène Vartan How vast the prison The world is not a film set D Disillusion, pain, on the horizon’s eighty degrees Disappearance of the French language Debacle, that will not let you rest until you Drift where the word carries you J Joyous days standing to sing the country Algeria the Fortunate setting itself free Erasure of all trace Of ancient Caesarea the smell of the sea without armor And mute absinthe E Emerald at the foot of the lions’ mountain Oran scoffs at the chiaroscuro of a gaze To each his own shamelessness Another Rimitti makes amends The minotaur basks in the sun on the Cintra’s terrace B Brawling and fantasia keep a memory alive You transcribe its austere narrative From rags of the massacre Weave the story’s brightness A Abdelkader roars on the Place d’Armes The theater is open White with all those dead calling us to order The kingdom of shadows has no taste R Rest you too Return in peace, O soul The father’s house is a living language Open to guests passing through
Originally published in the January 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. © Habib Tengour. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved.