How to find the mother when her face disappeared behind the hills
leaving us a body without contours
two packets of cold for the armpits
white grass for the pubis
Gone off with her friend the fire
she spoke to us in flares and sparks from behind the hill’s shoulder
her voice become brambles loose stones broom bush
if a storm broke she collapsed in soot
whole nights spent down on the floor sniffing a sketch of her
looking out for her rages in lightning
lips split by sun and frost
we called the mother till the closing of the last field 
© Vénus Khoury-Ghata. By arrangement with the author. Translation  © 2012 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved. 
Comment retrouver la mère lorsque son visage disparaissait derrière les collines
Nous laissant un corps sans contours
Deux paquets de froid pour les aisselles
De l’herbe blanche pour le pubis
Partie avec son ami le feu
elle nous parlait en flambées en etincelles par delà 1'épaule de la colline
sa voix devenue ronces pierrailles genêts
qu'un orage survint et elle s'écroulait en suie
des nuits entières à humer son esquisse à même le parquet
à guetter ses colères dans les éclairs
lèvres fendues par soleil et gel
on appelait la mère jusqu'à la clôture du dernier champ


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.