Hélène Cardona translating Maram Al-Masri

Ten Poems from Maram Al-Masri

What do you do, my sisters

                   15 March 2013: 5,000 women in Syrian prisons.

What do you do, my sisters,
when your breasts swell
and harden from pain?

When suffering
rips
your belly

when sorrow floods you

and the blood
flowing between your legs
darkens and hardens.

What do you do with the smell? 

What do you do, my sisters,
when your period starts
in cold dark
prisons

in prisons where they shoot and torture
in prisons where you are
chained
jam-packed?

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

Arms falling

Arms falling
hands slightly open to the sky
like someone who hasn’t found even in God
answers to his questions.

I think he turned
on himself a thousand times
for despair
struck him like lightning.

Despair
killed him.
The way bombs
killed his children.

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

Wooden crates, wooden crates

Wooden crates, wooden crates
rise lightly
as if made of air.
They turn, turn...
Men dance with them,
they sing
songs that burst in the sky,
melt mountains of pain.

Wooden crates turn, turn
as if on wings,
fly in the dance
from shoulder to shoulder, ascend, ascend,
and fall...

Bare crates
austere as the death of the poor.
With wooden, stifled cries,
dreams whose eyes closed,
smiles that no longer see lips.
With wooden wet faces,
kisses of a bereaved mother.

Caskets, caskets,
expensive gifts
for liberty’s wedding.

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

In a sordid hospital room

In a sordid hospital room
a wounded man lies on a dirty bed.
A man with a pen and notebook
approaches and asks,
was it the army of outlaws
that shot you?
No, says the wounded.
The man continues:
You must sign here that it was the outlaws
who shot you.
No, says the wounded.
A gun closes on his temple:
sign here!
No, it was the government army.

A gun goes off.

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

In a small Suzuki van

In a small Suzuki van
he laid his dead wife,
neatly arranged her clothes
as if she slept.

On the seat,
the bag of bread
she went to fetch
for her starving children
so her death
might not seem meaningless.  

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

We exiles

We exiles
survive on painkillers.
Our country became Facebook
it opens us to the sky
closed before our faces
at the border.

We exiles
sleep pressing our cell phones
against ourselves.
Under the lit
screens of our computers
we fall asleep full of sadness
and wake up full of hope.

We exiles
lurk around our distant homes
the way the enamored
lurk around prisons,
hoping to spot the shadow
of their lovers.
We exiles are sick
with an incurable disease:

Loving a country
put to death.

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

Liberty’s children

Liberty’s children
don’t dress in Petit Bateau.
Their skin quickly gets used to rough cloth.
Liberty’s children
wear used clothes
and oversized shoes.
They don the naked air or soil.

Liberty’s children
don’t know the taste of bananas
or strawberries.
They eat stale bread
soaked in the water of patience.

At bedtime,
liberty’s children
don’t take a bath
they don’t blow soap bubbles.
They play with tires, stones
and the debris
of bombs.

Before sleep,
liberty’s children
don’t brush their teeth.
They don’t wait for magical tales
of princes and princesses.

They listen to the sound of fear and cold.
On the sidewalks,
in the front doors of their demolished homes,
in the camps of neighboring countries
or
in tombs.

Liberty’s children
like all the world’s children
await
her.

From Liberty Walks Naked by Maram Al-Masri (Elle va nue la liberté, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2013)

 

War rages

War rages in Rwanda
and I eat
War rages in Yugoslavia
and I smile
War rages in Palestine
and I sleep

but since they’ve taken you away
war rages within me

From The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri  (Le Rapt, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2015)

 

Far from my arms

Far from my arms
you sleep in a bed that is not yours
you no longer see my face
nor my eyes looking at you with such love
you no longer take my hands
as was your habit
before falling asleep

at night you wake
to say Mommy
to a woman who is not me

far from my eyes
you will grow
go to school

and I won’t wait for you by the door
you’ll be sick
and I won’t be by your side

I won’t know your face or voice
I won’t know your smell
or the size of your shoes
you will remain in my memory
the eighteen-month-old child
kidnapped from me

From The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri  (Le Rapt, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2015)

 

Under the bed

Under the bed
I found the teddy bear
you clasped and covered with kisses
the one you talked to, eyes wide open
waiting for the angel of sleep to come to you

do you remember how it stopped
the storm of your cries
when I waved it at you
the night of your eyes glistened
and even the Niagara Falls
stopped falling

you tore it from my hands
clutching it against you
soothed
it was your companion
to face the night
your silent friend
the one you neglected when busy
the one you looked for when sad

the teddy bear and angel of sleep
keep looking for you

From The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri  (Le Rapt, Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2015)

Hélène Cardona

Hélène Cardona is a poet, literary translator and actor, whose most recent books include Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves (both from Salmon Poetry), and the translations Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb. She contributes essays to The London Magazine, co-edits Plume and Fulcrum: An Anthology of Poetry and Aesthetics. She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, has worked as a translator for the Canadian Embassy in Paris, and taught at Hamilton College and LMU. http://helenecardona.com

Maram Al-Masri

Maram Al-Masri was born in Lattakia, Syria, and moved to France following the completion of English Literature studies at Damascus University. She is the recipient of many prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix d’Automne 2007 de Poésie de la Société des Gens De Lettres, the Adonis Prize of the Lebanese Cultural Forum, the Premio Citta di Calopezzati for the section Poésie de la Mediterranée, Il Fiore d’Argento, and the Dante Alighieri Prize. Al-Masri’s sixteen books include Je te regarde, Par la fontaine de ma bouche, La robe froissée, Elle va nue la liberté, Le Rapt, and Cerise rouge sur un carrelage blanc.

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