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from the May 2021 issue

You Will Tell Them

Mauritania, its geography, and its women come to life in vivid detail in this poem by Mariem Mint Derwich.


You will tell them, my country,
you will tell them of your daughter, daughter among your daughters,
daughter among your men,
you will tell them of the winds that engendered her,
your winds of the East and your winds of the sea.
You will tell them that around her ankles she wears your dunes,
your tales,
your griots,
your notes of the moon,
your notes of the sun.
You will say to them that she is your daughter,
born and born again,
with each dawn,
in each song from the mosques.

 

You will tell them, my country,
of the lineage, the name of your people,
the scent of her mother,
the laugh of stone walls,
over there, in the city that sleeps.
You will tell them how she offered her hands
to the cliffs of Amogjjar,
to the walls of the big city,
to the songs of the rambling night.

 

You will say to them, to your people,
that she is your name,
in the sudden splendor of a dawn,
in the fold of a riverbed,
in the liquid finesse of a rivulet,
you will sing to them that she is the daughter of clouds,
daughter of phantom words.
You will tell them that she carries love,
love,
love

 

You will write on the dusty paths,
you will write that she is the ocher color of her memories,
that she birthed dreams,
sons of man to whom she whispered her name, their womb.
You will say to them, you will say to them, the encampments,
that she is blood and flesh, blood

 

blood

 

You will tell them that she is the daughter of encounters,
mixed daughter, roots daughter, mango daughter, date daughter,
you will say to them that she sleeps in the calabash of worlds,
that she is the milk that runs over skin,
you will say to them that she has eyes open, your eyes,
you will say to them that she bears your name, your names, your incantations,
you will tell them, her people, that she sleeps under cemetery stones,
in the prayer of those who rest and hope.

 

You will inscribe in their blazing gazes, your name,
my name,
their names

 

And, in the infinite that is, you will become a country within . . .

 

© Mariem Mint Derwich. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2021 by Emma Ramadan. All rights reserved.

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