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from the December 2017 issue

from “Clairvoyant in the City of the Blind”

In these three poems, poet Amina Saïd inquires into life, death, and the nature of memory.​

 

V

I did not choose to be born

but I must accept life accept death

I didn’t choose the day the hour the place
or the era of my arrival in the world
nor the name I bear
nor my sex nor the color of my eyes

but to predict the future yes I wanted that

I hope and despair at the same moment 
I have strange dreams that drive sleep away
I have moments of long silence 
then words push each other onto my lips

it is painful not to be heard
and yet my speech is not deceitful 
it is part of the world’s grief

I must keep a lucid vision
speak the language of the soul
which is light and wisdom

or stupor and confusion
will silence me forever

I was born a woman my speech
is part of the world’s grief 

 

 

X

this tree can have forgotten nothing

is that why they cut it down?

this sturdy tree that centuries 
had skimmed across
that fertility had not tired
they made its silvered peak touch the ground

its oil will no longer brighten our rooms
with its gentle light
no wise man rejoices

those who did this could not decipher
the omens that many wounds
had chiseled in its bark
like a secret script 

and they did not see that the nearby spring
is still singing or that a leafy shoot
is already budding from the stump

what can they see then
by keeping their eyes shut? 

 

 

XI

a door that shuts

can also open 

so I left my dark prison
stunned by sunlight 

I needed to look once more
at the earth that made us
from which they want to uproot us 

the spring air carried scents of pine 
of tamarisk of hot sap 
come from the shimmering plain

I made my way along the citadel’s
winding streets beside silent houses
when some women approached me
pitiful in these desperate days

who all spoke at once:

they carry off our flocks 
attack our orchards steal our horses
burn our harvests there’s no end to it
each side sends spies
the council met again
no negotiation to end the war
has led to anything the cities that
were still our allies yesterday fall one by one 

then in a cacophony of moaning 
the way a disaster is announced or
a dreadful omen they said:

the sacred tree has been uprooted  

 

 

© Amina Saïd. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Marilyn Hacker. All rights reserved.

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