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Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese writer and the author of many books, including Nettles (Graywolf Press, 2008), A House at the Edge of Tears (Graywolf Press, 2005), and She Says (Graywolf Press, 2003). Her honors include the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres for Fables pour un people d’argile, the Prix Apollinaire, and the Prix Mallarmé, and she was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2000. Her work has been translated into several languages. She lives in Paris.

By This Poet



The first day after his death 
she folded up her mirrors 
put a slipcover on the spider web
then tied up the bed which was flapping its wings to take off

The second day after his death 
she filled up her pockets with wood chips 
threw salt over the shoulder of her house 
and went off with a tree under each arm

The third day after his death
she swore at the pigeons lined up along her tears 
bit into a grape which scattered its down in her throat 
then called out till sunset to the man gone barefoot 
into the summer pasture in the cloudy mountains

The fourth day
a herd of buffalo barged into her bedroom 
demanding the hunter who spoke their dialect 
she shouldered her cry
shot off a round
which pierced the ceiling of her sleep

The fifth day
shoe-soles of blood imprinted themselves on her doorstep 
she followed them to that ditch where everything smells of boned 

The sixth day after his death 
she painted her face with earth 
attacked the peaceful shadows of passers-by 
slit the throats of trees
their colorless blood evaporated when it touched her hands

The seventh day
stringy men sprouted in her garden 
she mistook them for poplars 
bit the armpits of their branches 
and lengthily vomited wood-chips

The eighth day
the sea whinnied at her door 
she washed her belly's embankments 
then called down to the river's mouth 
where men clashed together like pebbles

The ninth day
she dried her tears on the roof between the basil and the budding 
gazed at herself in stones
found cracks in her eyes like those in a church's stained glass

The tenth day
he surged up out of her palm 
sat down on her fingernail
demanded her usual words to drink and the almond odor of her 
He swallowed them without pleasure
on his journey he'd lost the taste for tortured water

[Where do words come from?]

Where do words come from?
from what rubbing of sounds are they born
on what flint do they light their wicks
what winds brought them into our mouths

Their past is the rustling of stifled silences
the trumpeting of molten elements
the grunting of stagnant waters

they grip each other with a cry
expand into lamentations
become mist on the windows of dead houses
crystallize into chips of grief on dead lips
attach themselves to a fallen star
dig their hole in nothingness
breathe out strayed souls

Words are rocky tears
the keys to the first doors
they grumble in caverns
lend their ruckus to storms
their silence to bread that's ovened alive