the mother sent us out in the street naked
Walnut husks served us for ink
Fences we’d jumped were the pages we leafed through
Euphoria in the evening when she multiplied her arms
two to embrace us
two to push us away and
make sure we had the same number of smiles and tears
How to tell her with no punctuation about the transparent toes of the children whose 
   paths we crossed
the women all red on the inside
the dogs blue at the corners of their mouths as if they had bitten into
   the sky bitten God
How to make her admit that there were three of us in times of famine
Six when the rain spread mirrors on the asphalt and
we would make faces so as not to recognize ourselves 
© Vénus Khoury-Ghata. By arrangement with the author. Translation  © 2012 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved.
Tablier dessiné sur la peau
La mère nous envoyait nus dans les rues
la brou de noix nous tenant lieu d'encre
le clôtures sautées de pages feuilletées
1'euphorie du soir lorsqu'elle multipliait ses bras
deux pour nous étreindre
deux pour nous éloigner et
s'assurer que nous avions le même nombre de rires et de larmes
Comment lui raconter sans ponctuation les orteils translucides des enfants qui nous croisaient
Les femmes rouges de l'intérieur
Les chiens bleus aux commissures des lèvres comme s'ils avaient croqué
Du ciel croqué Dieu
Comment lui faire admettre que nous étions trois par temps de disette
Six quand la pluie ouvrait des miroirs dans le bitume et
que nous grimaçions pour ne pas nous reconnaître

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.