October 27, 2003

Etel Adnan

I say that I’m not afraid
of dying because I haven’t
yet had the experience
of death

on the walls of an overheated
bedroom images on paper
fade like my bones in a bed

women love the night
which hides their
lack of love

they want clouds
casting no shadow over
the poverty of memory . . . while
their astonishment moves on

the autumn garden isn’t enough
for our impatience. I am exiled
from my inner land since
a lost love left me

the hardened wood of a plumtree threatens
a galaxy unknown to all, and the
word borrows the reversible path
of light to bring relief

the tribes gather their bitterness on                    
market day; the sun fissures the only

Omar Khayyam asked me
to share his wine. I said yes. I shared
his melancholy and tomorrow
I will go see him in the earth that he
has become

with each being that is assassinated                     
in our country of sulfur and copper
a new will rises

voyage, oh voyage!
the final fire that ravages the air
unveils the soil on which
we walk aimlessly
and tirelessly

the hypocrisy of the strong protects us
from home. I prefer leaves
yellowed by the rain to false

so I listen to the wind. It’s good to live
where there’s dying, where the legends
go out . . . our tombs will be as                
light as angels’ wings

let’s not bother to fear those
who insult our insubordination
the conquered will always have the
last word

I live in an invisible that has neither
bathroom nor entryway.
the invisible has no owner.
the dream never has walls,
and it’s never cold there

. . . and my shadows stretch
over my body as it sleeps,
and the sky stops being blue, and
the light waits

we don’t have famous actresses
in our little grocery stores and our
men exported by hunger hurry
into the steel of winter

I am not a phantom along
the foreign river. neither leopard nor
owl. I am a current of air

if we write, it’s that we can’t
sing, if we sleep, it’s that we
can’t live

memory is good for nothing
most of the time: the hotels where I waited
have disappeared

it was forbidden for women
to go after love. so they
stopped looking for paradise                  

come on! jasmine behind the ear
belongs to a fallen dusk.
we’d like to stop talking about   
human things, but stones
are no better

when she said that she was water
and light, they started to eat
something bitter and hard
in the dark . . . that’s to say they didn’t
hear the storm

from the boat that took me away, I’ve                
kept the nausea, and the scent of the oil.
from the city where I landed, I               
remember a defeat and an
expensive restaurant

I too have crossed the plains
that spread to infinity, while
happiness is encountered only in

in order to perform, words dress in
Phoenician purple, and it’s in the
spaces separating them that
great adventures take place

I plunge my hands into the sun               
whereas sleeping bodies prefer
slivers of the moon

let’s stay in the Mediterranean, not far
from the fields planted with orange trees
in bloom

those who cannot leave
discover the geography
of the body. there are also airfields                    
and harbors on the surface of our souls

don’t leave the Mediterranean
without telling her that you loved her:
her daughters and her sons went
North, a day of rain, or a day
of war

as for me, I belong to the stones
thrown for lack of helicopters,
to the women locked up,
to the political prisoners;
sometimes I regret my love of

but our solar mother star,
and the lunar father, in their way,
have entrusted us with useless
objects from a forgotten century

in the water of certain rivers there
is a wild happiness

in Yosemite Valley,
with the color of the Pacific still
trailing in my eyes, I buried
the essential and the inessential. That
happiness will survive my death

my friend Khaled sends me palm tree
postcards because he knows that
Europe is covered in burned petrol

I pass by the trees of this
season as I pass by
men and women . . . I believe it’s
possible to have loved only

I return to Greece, preferred friend of
celestial Arabia, because they have
horses in common, and wild teenagers

I close the shutters and I wonder
where the light went that married                      
the sea beneath our eyes          

I’d have liked to go to the corner           
café, to watch the cold file by while I’m                         
in the warm, or even to make love . . .     
but bombs are raining down on Baghdad             

this evening, my friends, I’m going to bed
early because the dark is too thick. I’ll try,
contrary to what’s usual in dreams, not to let      
myself be carried by waves, nor hunt
for my key. I’m going to try to sleep,
I believe, as children do

there’s a time in autumn when the                     
trees change their nature, and
wake up beyond
matter; then one sees them come back to
their ordinary selves  

it’s good to stay in discontinuity, there
where birds live, and to know that
nations feed themselves on plundering:
armed with this disappointment, we manage                  
to bear the unbearable

she used to drive her car on forbidden
ground and the suns hiding there
gave her a beauty itself

I come back to Greece with the fierceness
of one condemned to death, knowing that it’s
no longer a territory; I should build it up
again, but instead of getting tools I                                 
dissipate in grief        

don’t leave the Mediterranean;
elsewhere, in all seasons, there are
nothing but snares, and the regrets
you will conceal will
strangle you

don’t leave your childhood, and its
sorrows. the first desire will
accompany you to the last
breath. streets lead to
illuminations, but never to peace
of the heart

watch your brothers die
on TV, and don’t move.
they are in a new world             
although with no exit


Paris, October 27, 2003


translated from the French by Sarah Riggs