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Articles tagged "Memory"

From “Photograms”

Our country has no more warriors only timeworn fig trees beaten thoroughly by the thousand winds of our plight. The barefooted angels with pathetic faces at the bottom of our ramparts die with each new light. The scent of childhood is now nowhere to be found no chance of nursery rhymes or sunshowers what happened to the hours of ancient romance our dreamy obsession with Al-Buraq’s powers? Oh that horse-woman with the mane flowing longer than the clouds over our houses crumbling...

On Memory: New Writing from Japan

This is the fourth issue of Words without Borders focusing on Japan (and the third supported by the British Centre for Literary Translation/Nippon Foundation partnership). For this issue we decided to focus on memory. We don’t quite remember why. It may or may not have had something to do with this being a year commemorating the beginning or end of one war or another, or it may, or again may not, have had to do with the simple fact—the one fact that we can be relatively certain...

from “With Absolute Passion”

Days drift away slowly and quietly deep inside Guatemala. No inner musings. No pondering or ideas. Just a numbing silence, which reminds me of Buddhists and their thoughts about beginners’ minds that are forever capable of wonder. There’s something here that eludes my grasp . . . But in the snapshot instant when the plunging frigidity of Lake Atitlán pitches me into the arms of another reality, I suddenly understand. Perhaps the Mayas really do suspend this land from a...

Lament

He was fifty-four years old with a sound mind and a body that was rotting away. He died. He wasn’t young enough to have required a specific cause of death, or young enough to cause great sadness. Only a vague sadness existed about death itself. He died at fifty-four years of age, and he had no one who would be sad about his death. There was no one who would remember him. Because he had already died he couldn’t even claim ownership over such people. Death meant losing all things,...

White Sand, Black Stone

The young officer was reading the pages of my passport diligently, scrupulously, as though they were the pages of a gossip magazine or a cheap novel. He held them up. He looked at them against the light. He scratched them hard with the nail of his index finger. It occurred to me that at any moment he might fold over the corner of one of the pages, marking it, as though planning to return to his reading later. You travel a lot, he said suddenly as he went over all the stamps. I didn’t...

My Cloud

Image description

With practice I managed to fix stars.


The Sad Portuguese

Luis Carvalho was the “sad Portuguese”—that is what they called him, or at least what we called him, we the children in the neighborhoods of Sif, Mahallat al-Pasha, Nadhran, and Bllush, even when we were grown boys and then teenagers, but before we became men, because the war came upon us and did not allow us to complete our years together—it took most of the group to the graveyard before they had lived out even a quarter of their lives.  It was the same war...

Very Cheesy and Also Rather Blah

carefully giving it some thought the lines on my palm[1] have deflected for you some now I suppose my dirty beard, my fiendish leg hair will graduate in time that someone of my years should care about minutiae but it’s true I never held you in my arms those training grounds where one prepares for hardship even the most majestic backdrop wouldn’t be a match for this bucktoothed “Cheese” into the camera ke-cha! then good-bye good-bye no one can...

The Baghdad Clock

I never feared them nor did they ever do anything to frighten me. They were there, next to the stove, mixed up with the crackling of firewood, the taste of freshly baked bollos, the to-and-fro of the old women’s skirts. I never feared them, perhaps because in my imagination they were pale and beautiful, listening as we did to the stories that took place in nameless hamlets, waiting for the right moment to let themselves be heard, to whisper to us wordlessly: “We’re here,...

The Devil Lives in Lisbon

On Mondays Mother always got up at five o’clock. She would leave half an hour after getting out of bed, once she had gathered up all the breakfast crockery, and then, looking at us again with a smile, she would not be back home till Saturday. When she’d come back down the same path that she had gone up on Monday. Nieves was seven at the time. I was six. Elisa, just three. Mother worked as a schoolteacher. In La Comba, a small village in the mountains. The little bus would come...

from “Poison Karoo”

Author’s Note: Poison Karoo is a work of fiction, written out of concern and dismay at the proposals for hydraulic fracking in the Karoo. Ludo is an old man, gray now and with eyes that grow bluer the longer he stares at the sea, longing for the woman he has never seen again, not since those years long ago. He lives alone, and sits on his stoep gazing out over the bay. His house is small and square, turned to face northeast, with its back to Paternoster’s harshest winds. In...

I Remember

I remember the summer storms during the rainy season when the wind flung open the windows and lifted the contents of the rooms in a swirling dance. Streaks of lightening lit up the gray sky and the thunder was like the angry scream of the entire universe, unleashed right there, in that very spot. I remember, between the crashing of the thunder and the flashes of lightening, old Haimanot hiding under the ironing table in the living room, alternately shouting, "Wai! Gud reichiben! Oh God,...

The Christmas Tree

Someone had placed a giant tree in the hotel lobby, a pine made of unrecyclable plastics. We’re in a strange land and Christmas is nearing. We see these things with a particular disdain, a particular apathy of islanders steeped in a system that alternates beauty with politics. Christmas, for us, is nothing more than faint nostalgia, our mothers’ childhoods, the tree in the corner of a color photo from cousins in Miami, the wool purse brought by someone from Russia when the...

The Iron Caterpillar

Strange phenomena can strike such dread into human hearts that I ask you to believe in the one that knotted the stomach of the young diver named Paolo, who noticed the haze of the tunnel when he was returning from a day of fishing . . . Shortly after stowing his fishing gear, mask, snorkel, and flippers in a big, army-green sports bag, and proudly hooking the day’s catch of black jacks and red snappers onto the steel tip of his harpoon—which he immediately placed on his...

The Hole in the Garden, Part III

“Hello?” There was no answer. I put the phone back down. I turned to go back to the kitchen and it rang again. I picked it up, wordlessly this time. Again nothing. As soon as I hung up it rang again. After this happened a few more times I just unplugged the phone. Quiet at last. I took the leftovers from the freezer and put them in the microwave. I didnʼt bother trying to figure out who might have been calling or why. Maybe it was a telemarketer, bitter because I had...

The Hole in the Garden, Part II

The woman showed up exactly one month to the day after the pigʼs arrival. I had just finished cleaning the house and was thinking about feeding the pig before I started waxing the floors when the doorbell rang. The woman on the intercom video screen looked like she was some kind of salesperson. I decided to pretend I wasnʼt home. Then, however, she leaned forward and brought her lips—caked thick with lipstick—up to the microphone. “Iʼm Hanamura, I work...

Dustland

There was a rustle in the bush up ahead and I froze in my tracks. The bush rustled again and I thought there must be a snake in it. Snakes scared me even before, but now one had actually bitten me. It was some poisonous kind and I nearly died. Only someone who’s been bitten at least once by a venomous snake can appreciate how much a person who’s been bitten comes to fear this slithery creature. He starts seeing snakes everywhere, and I too began to see one in this dry bush....

from “What You Wished For”

The Kid was back. Ziggy heard the dog’s toenails clicking on the floor while he did his usual dance. But for the Kid the dog also added yelps of joy to the ritual. The dog was more attached to the Kid than to Ziggy, or to his Wife or to the Uncle, who was his original owner. “Lucky, you goddamn sonofabitch you,” Ziggy heard the Kid say to the dog in a babyish tone of affection. He was seventeen, his only son, tall and thin and fair-eyed like his mother, clumsy and...

For Álvaro Pombo

We are accomplices and accomplices have no reason to embrace or kiss or mourn their own dead or ours.  We live in endless complicity with shameful times that have become scars and ashes in our memory.  Dark days that today are luminous mist in Neuchâtel or in brothels on Las Ramblas whose ceremonies we don’t attend but which we’re familiar with because we’ve lived in brothels and in dungeons and in the incense of basilicas. Accomplices...

The Writer of Memories

Of my first emigration, I have no memories. Of the country that I left, I think I may still have the images from some small colorless photographs. I cannot make out the pain of my mother’s good-bye to her family—or the trip or the landing of the plane or the embrace of my father when he reunited with us. Of my first years as a foreigner I recall a swimming pool where I never learned to swim; that once I got lost running through the lobby of a hotel where we were staying at the...

Narratives of 1960

Grandmother’s last clothing is a reed mat her coffin a small fishing boat The year was 1960 She stole a kilo of yellow beans Those who ordered her to kneel on snail shells are mostly dead Those still alive are also old Some are tending shops some sleep or herd ducks Translation of   "Yi jiu liu ling nian ji shi. "  Copyright Yang Jian. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. All rights reserved.

Two Faces

Eyes closed, I see again the delicate edens growing in the frost on the windowpanes. Luminous garlands woven into the snow-covered railings during the festive season to celebrate the birth of a child-god. The bloody flame of the burner glowing red through the window of the oil-fired boiler cast onto the walls glimmers of the eternal cremation of souls. Our mother’s wigs made from the hair of Filipinas killed during the war. Our socks which she mended with eelskin. The crickets our...

Making a Scene

When I was little I watched a lot of movies, because my mother was always making shirts, my father was painting his pictures to sell, and so to let them work in peace, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, would take us to the Stadium movie house and keep us there, me and my brothers, for two movies back-to-back, the four o’clock and the six o’clock shows. I really liked watching my mother cut along the line to the paper pattern pinned to the cloth, and I liked it even...

The Last Picture Show

I’d just come up to Tokyo from a Kyushu port town that had a U.S. military base and was living with some friends in a crummy little apartment in a wooden building north of Inokashira Park. These friends had formed a blues band back home and hoped to find success in the big city. I played drums but wasn’t really passionate about carrying on with a blues band from the hinterlands of Kyushu. My main priority had been to get away from my parents, and they’d agreed to send...

from “Gypsy Mandalas”

10th Mandala I realized early on inside my mother’s belly that I’d be born a Gypsy. The realization made me drown at least twice in the embryonic fluid, but then I decided to resurrect myself. After all, being a Gypsy can’t be any worse than the state of the world itself. I’ll muddle through it somehow, just like all the other Gypsies.   14th Mandala While my father was taking an extension course in jail—due partly to having beaten up one of the...

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