from Los versos de la madera

Limam Boicha

The Roads of the South

Don't forget to say
the names of God
if you go down the roads of the South.

On the planes of Tiris
the dust is having a blast
after the blessings.

A toast breaks the nostalgic song
from the Valley of Sadness
to the Heart of the Scorpions.

When the moon bundles up
old lady night is left alone
in the silhouette of a hearth.

A ship of burning ash
inebriated with anxiety
is drinking dirt in the bay.

Among the travelers
she is there nude,
with her shiny black hair
that reaches her thighs.

Handcuffed by bandages & henna
she walks among the ageless stones
through regions that have no lakes.

Between kisses & rainstorms,
between hugs & promises,
something smells like contraband.

Don't forget to say
the names of God
if you go down the roads of the South.

Boughs of Thirst

In the shade of a thorn tree
two bodies shudder
before their nakedness
while half a desert
separates them & their ma al-ayún.
In the Bay of Santiago
someone beat a drum & crooned
an entrancing primitive chant
in Hassaniya or Amharic
in Mandinka or Castilian.
A letter in Catalan arrived
from the Font de Canaletas,
with map & all,
announcing that stray, still
unbranded camel
would make a good water trough.


We exist
as the unalterable identity
of this life in itself.

We exist
by translating the hieroglyphs
of eternal hardship.

We exist
among collapsing wells
without the miracle of grass.

We exist
with empirical proof & calendars.

translated from the Spanish by Joseph Mulligan

Reprinted, with permission, from Poems for the Millennium, Volume Four: The University of California Book of North African Literature, edited by Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour (University of California Press, 2013).