Maya Phillips

The Kindly Ones

Dear Ms. Phillips,

We at – are interested in taking care of
your real estate needs [we can take this
from you] and it has come to our attention
that, as administrator of the estate of –

[who? will you know him even now?],
you may now be in ownership [you, kin
of your father, in whose image – ?
you inherit – ?] of the property at –

[will you still call this home?].
We would be happy to work with you. 
Whether you are interested in renting
[what does he owe?] or selling

[now we come to receive you,
we, your cousins, your home]
the property, we guarantee [as we are we,
as we are here with/in you] we will protect

[vow tucked under his tongue—what now
will he say for himself – ?] of your fiscal
interests—no matter the state
of the property [flooding, rotting, falling,

the house of Atreus, of Cadmus, again]
we have a team of talented professionals
to aid you in this time [how long
has it been since you’ve lost,

since the house, since the man,
do you remember – now, what now?
since then? now, after – ].
We will assign a qualified real

estate agent [should he wander, should he rest,
we will find him, again, even now, after – ]
to handle the property [ – after fury,
what do you do with the remains, after – ]

in any way you see fit [we have seen him,
we have seen the body – let us feast]
and serve as a consultant [sister-cousin,
ask us how we know]. From sales

[what you’ve chosen to mourn]
to mortgage financing [what’s fitting to note],
property management [as you create him,
with fury, so you we – ] to homeowner’s

insurance [villainous he, furious we],
we are here every step [sister, we have been here,
have seen him, have spoken the name
of the dead, have gathered, perched

on the rooftop of this house, nails tap tapped
on windowpanes – let us in let us in – the man
on the couch breathing, not breathing, he was here]
of your real estate journey.

We have thousands of agents [we are]
in several offices [here] across the U.S.
[we are here], all ready [we are here]
to serve [with/in] you [we can take this]

and your property [we can take this from you].
[Sister, we have come to you for the feast,
for the shelter, your guests, we are, kindly
sister, furious sister, we will call you home].

Thanks again, and we hope you choose – for your real estate needs.

Theme in Red

Instead of an apartment,
we decide to live in a pomegranate.
We search for the proper size and ripeness,
the right richness of color,
the perfect shade of velvet, an essential
red. We are the masters of real estate,
discovering such a steal buried in a pile
of wrong picks at the farmer’s market, just $3
for a mouthful of home.

Moving is difficult, as it always is
in this city. But we fit inside the palm
of the mover’s hand, and we split the rind
into a doorway wide enough for years
of heres and theres, the unabridged
history of the soles of our feet.

Each seedless pocket of fruit is a room,
and they are infinite, a room for recalling
the things we’ve forgotten, a room
for the unpracticed waltz and improvised tango,
and a room for considering impossible things,
where we live most of the time, dreaming
of mansions cut of dragon fruit
and summer homes furnished
from blood orange and red pear.

Every morning we eat
ourselves out of our rooms.
We fill all our pockets with seeds.
We are never hungry for anything.
The juice seeps into all of our clothing,
the linens, the furniture, this stubborn red
we picked, so we are stained
with the evidence of our living.
We are a mess at dinner parties.
We apologize for nothing.
We crimson with laughter.
We lick the joy off our lips.
We wake every day singing
from the fevered red rooms of our hearts.

Maya Phillips was born and raised in New York. Maya received her BFA in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and her MFA in poetry at Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. She currently works as the associate content producer at the Academy of American Poets and as a freelance arts journalist. She lives in Brooklyn.

Lisa Low

The Way White People Speak

Ying Kit had seen a handful of Asian people on TV, like Connie Chung and Lucy Liu, their black hair like his sister’s, like a waterfall at night. Only, when Connie Chung spoke, she sounded like no Chinese person he knew. He pictured her voicebox as a radio she would program every morning. How hard it must’ve been at the beginning, shaping her lips to the words, like a ventriloquist’s dummy, a moving hand inside her throat.

Lisa Low was born and raised in Maryland. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Passages North, Quarterly West, Vinyl, Day One, and elsewhere. She lives in Bloomington, IN, where she recently earned her MFA in poetry at Indiana University. 

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza


gangrenous love fills everything. a mind made blank
by careless hands turns purple in the sun. the fear

of closeness ripens. she had threatened to split her lips
open while the ocean made sounds in the distance.

every crashing wave gave water to the air as an
offering. the boys were off rolling blunts and laughing

too loud to hear all the violence. time stretches
and folds in on itself. time is a body full of damage

that is constantly trying to forget, though it always
remembers on the long drive home. the freeway is

such a beautiful trigger. machines like cold fruit
falling from city to city until one day they find

the soil. the same soil she moved her fingers through
when she thought of the love she gave away. the love

she held onto. all wrong, all backwards, all pus-
covered memory. she slips into something more

comfortable, another reality. somewhere things are okay.
somewhere she is hacking off old limbs and dreaming

                                                      of velvety silence.

I Don’t Want To Be Understood

i don’t want to be understood
i want to live in the air
with all my sisters
floating free around me
like dandelion seeds
no blood
no language
no speaking
no border between body
and subjectivity
just feeling
pure feeling
leaking out from her skin
while she twirls her hair in her fingers
and blows kisses to the sun
she will fall in love
with the way the star will expand
and eat us
she will not fear death
because she does it every day
when she leaves her house
to walk in front of men
who beg for the tangible
who want to know her
more than she knows herself
and she laughs
remembering how
coming to understand her body
was like reconceptualizing water
how moving through their spaces
was all about displacement
how she became one with me
when she realized
we’d been touching beneath the soil
all along

Loss Ritual

This one involves stretching
the skin until it begins to break.

There is light that escapes, and
light that enters. We call this

an even trade, but I am still
without family. Poured myself

a glass of womanhood and drank
until the bones became enough

to live in. Said you can have this
old thing. I don’t need it anymore.

Lick the salt from its surface. I
don’t need it anymore. I can cry

whenever I want, all it takes is
remembering. You wanted to

be holy and righteous because
this is one path to one kind

of heaven. I wanted to be holy
and righteous because life is short

and sad and we all deserve to be
loved. Even you, alone with your

god. Even me, alone with myself.
Neither as complete as we hoped

the loss would make us.

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been featured in The Offing, The Feminist Wire, PEN America, and elsewhere. Her first book of poems i’m alive / it hurts / i love it was released through boost house in 2014, and her second collection THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016.

Katherine E. Young

Planning Your Suburban Affair

You’ll need a map, though there’s no substitute
for local knowledge. Consider the parks, scout
their parking lots: note any trees that screen.
Walk the quieter paths, hear mulch crackle,
cock an ear for barking dogs. Check shrubs
for cover, picnic shelters – you never know
when it might rain. Weigh the likelihood
of snakes against the certainty of joggers. 
Buy condoms at a place where they don’t keep
your prescriptions on file, where you won’t meet
the checkout clerk at back-to-school night. 
Quick, think what you’ll say when someone rifles
your purse for stamps: “Let me, Hon, you never
find anything in there!” Take up yoga,
poetry, something to get you out at night. 
Now you’re off, eyes conning the dark. You seek
the hole between lampposts: bone in the throat
of the universe that buys you time. Watch how
cars flow, see their headlights sweep the shadows.
Check your pulse, register its spasm;
take off your wedding ring. Pack a flashlight,
fine, but you can’t ever turn it on.

Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Subtropics, and many others. Young is also the translator of Two Poems by Inna Kabysh; her translations of Russian and Russophone authors have won prizes in international competitions and been published widely in the US and abroad; several have been made into short films. Young is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow and currently serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia.

John Rufo

rest in peace sound

    the alteration of the sense



                                          all too well    

                    what you know

    sensible            well-known    anterior

                             & interior motives

                 catch tenses    suck

                             in the two bells

    tuba halt                      breath



                 I hope you get the reference

                 I hope you get the message

    all too tell

                             alliteration of the rent

                 allusion to the curtains

                                          tears in the cut

                             written not spoken

    the archive casts its net

                                          I meant weeping

                                          I meant resisting


yeah abrasion after         all parts mumble apart         no more
       portions                   protons not porous               parallelisms
into your pillow    your locked-up eyes            your unafraid tongue

          who gets the final say on flower-names

its succession secession    a success        until slept in
       going out later                    growing into parts        paroxysm
sharpens sleep-gathering                    therapies for the first time

          I keep pointing and asking who took this photo

wall-writing         brawls with planar space             or onyx
           known                I thought         no wrong note
guilt is gullible     repeating after me             un-change loosening

          I confuse mountain pink and mountain peak

clocks calling the shots         mountain pink          sent back
       accomplishment     efficient          gently downed the screen
who gets the final say           on flower-names                who will

          I identify myself who told you to do me for me

how many placeholders                    within citations    
          who took this photo         grass deletion removal compiling
this shaken comic book cornucopia              of lasting rites

John Rufo’s work has been published, or is forthcoming, on, Ploughshares, The Offing,Tagvverk, Entropy, The Journal Petra, NOO, and Dreginald. More information is available at

Jenny L. Davis

Gifts Between Ghosts

This is a difficult place
to hold ground.
Removals and refusals
make apparitions of those of
us living in categories reserved
for dead. But today I am real
enough to hold a gift crafted and carried
here by others made ghosts
in their own lands
to drink hot tea together and suspend
our phantom states.

Bone Songs

Being the first Native
in this department is just
another word for only but
I am not really the first one here
these halls used to hold
my ancestors whole
but now favor cells and scrapings
horse nation
canine nation
primate nation
we are all gathered here in boxes and slides 
If I sang the bone songs
they would all sing back to me
I have lined this office with plants
books by southeastern women
Two spirit art
and ndn comics
sometimes I find the
echoes of my people here comforting
at least they tell jokes
with the same intonation
know removal cuts bone deep
the longing for home
and resistance to the
shovels and scalpels
of loneliness
I am here to call this
into being
peel the bark from my flesh to
bite the patterns of my thoughts
weave the honeysuckle vines
so resistant to squared pages
type the beads onto cloth
in the traditional patterns of
mutter prayers to do this
in a good way
a kind way
pray that no one will inspect
the back side where
the disorder of strings
betrays my shaking hands
When they sing the bone songs
I will sing back to them 

Jenny L. Davis (Chickasaw) is originally from Oklahoma. She is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where she lives with her partner and spends most of her time tending her cats (and cat-sized Chihuahua), plants, and the students in her Anthropology and American Indian Studies classes. Her creative work has been published in As/Us; River, Blood, & Corn; Broadsided; and Rabbit and Rose, and recently appeared in the anthology Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance. @chickashajenny.

Angela Peñaredondo


I. Grandfather

A clenched foot is to a body object that strikes with fists around a wooden rod or slippery metal that pushed heavy hooves through a field’s shallow rainwater I grew around acres of mud and the seeds we planted under its weight dug

a fist equivalent to a machete         as rifle         as Beretta       as pistol
above a skull               it opens into a plume

from the world it hides all five fingers can fit into a womb or a mouth
a man seated tied with hemp rope a strung-up rooster eyes widened to the ivory

names & coordinates he confesses once I remove my fist the rain stops
                                                                                     heat rises to ten

II. Grandmother

I cannot recall how early I knew or how it was shown to me as a girl in the parlor of my mother’s living room the piano the mahogany floor smelling of a wet earth fingers elongate to each personality

legs crossed in a schoolyard my hands folded like gowns over my lap
                                                                                                     open open open

old woman slices okras tawny roots a fish laid out glassy and gutted I clutch meat
and foliage cutting with precision and speed                          I cannot keep up my own
fingers       I cannot help cutting into them                                           yes the fist
                            I can speak more       on slicing 

III. Granddaughter

It transforms into a comet when used right curls to meet the invisible rendering
them quiet they cannot fit into this mouth I always try but teeth get in the way

because I’ve been called small men have said my cavity is not equipped to protect
me from such things I’ve learned this first from my mother that night I dreamt of pummeling
                    a man to paint                                I brushed the ground
                                          with his own stain                                      with my fist          

                                                                          how to break his nose

I do but without breaking my fist first

then there’s a gift above all gifts                      this nautilus of skin
I can make love with it talk into my endless self         with or without grief          
   through this portable cave



her body a tiny lake dwells on the tabletop before plunging into the cool bowl her hands of sticky rice full she eats nothing else only craves (the taste of clouds) like dewy pearls mashes them to impermanence (before swallowing) the kitchen continues to smell of jarred rain stinking of silver ghosts


she powders her face to almost snow porcelana that’s what her mother calls it (the right kind of sheen) there’s no time to stay (herself) she has a prized date it is night in a vacant parking lot (the open trunk of a car) what she steals she smokes slow the taste of silence that comes as she presses a glass bottle (to the swell) of her lips tanduay dark with the gold seal oh that medicine of sugar cane


with some friends at a bar their tailbones in triangulation with a hard angle of light (in usual red) she sits underneath a print of Paula Rego’s painting snow white playing with her father’s trophies (in cruel) satin lush thighs and in between (the severed) animal head (antlers arched upward like yeses) smiling she does not forget to signal him the bartender with a nod (before the bill) another one for prosperity


at a window seat of a moving bus (or a train) the presence of a television (that cannot be seen) flashes suggesting pleasure of pale flesh naturally she turns (away) looks out the window an (indecipherable) map beams across her forehead as the vehicle accelerates her face (from clay to ash) becomes a sterling mise en abîme the map pans & pans


inside an expensive restaurant knives and soupspoons dipping in fatty omegas over a telephone call she discusses how men (also women) along with adoration will go (like this broth and oil) and sacrifice (a reunion of adventures) of a body’s departure (not made of or from crust or callous) and that you are a voice on the phone’s receiving end says that’s how you ended up in that hole i mean the woods i mean into a bright monster made of birds

Born in Iloilo City, Philippines, Angela Peñaredondo is a Pilipinx poet and artist. Peñaredondo is the author of the book, All Things Lose Thousands of Times (Inlandia Institute) which won the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize and the chapbook, Maroon (Jamii Publications). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in AAWW’s The Margins, Four Way ReviewCream City ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewDusie and elsewhere. She resides in southern California. .

Alfredo Aguilar


            after Ada Limón

if my lineage is forced into a white van in the middle
of their lives—if every family photo album i own is seized
by customs—if my abuelo doesn’t have a face when i speak
of him in this foreign language—if we call a thing
what it is not until it is—if history becomes a redacted text
book given to children—if the future is a shelf
of bricks—if i look on the nation & my voice becomes
a block of salt—if i have sunken so far
that not even harp strings can reach me & you are patient
as i climb back out—if i tell you this may be me
at my best & you do not leave—if we vanish into light
clinging to one another & still think ourselves lucky—
i will climb onto the moon, look back on the ravaged
world, reach my hand out to you, & say come with me. please.



the children are born to a world that is as hot
as it has ever been & having never seen
it any other way, believe it has always been
so. they cannot imagine a sky without gaping
punctures. they stand to inherit our empire
of smoke. its busted oil pipes spoiling
water, ransacking the bodies it passes through.
they familiarize themselves with an animal
through its bones. an animal whose fur
we as children had placed our small hands on.
we cannot show them the world
that exists in our memories, so we show
them photographs. in their palms: glaciers,
forests, & mountains vanish from film.


[an erasure of Barack Obama’s speech at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris]


is immune

this means.

                the sea is faster               

    than our efforts   submerged  

               more floods      seeking 


that future                          is one fragile


that hour

is here,           we place our 

interests behind 




skiffs pass between towering steel buildings jutting
from the ocean. skyscraper’s windows reflect
the sun. on some roofs, gardens. sea life
finds a new home in a library, a subway cart, a brick
building. in the desert, the opulent palaces
are abandoned to reptiles & even they do not emerge
until after the sun sets. here the paint peels off
every wall & sign. rows of houses lie empty.
in drought, the salt was taken out of an ocean
along with the ocean. somewhere there is an island
made entirely of garbage. if there is an after world
i am certain we will waste that one too. inside the last glacier,
the fossils of fish. when it melts, the fossils will be given
back their muscle, their sparkling scales, their ancient teeth.

Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared in Winter TangerineThe Acentos ReviewVinyl, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.

Shireen Hamza translating Ali Abdeddine

Revelations of Withdrawal – من وحي العزلةA Return to Rain

A thick fog obscured the view, and
changed the rhythm of life. A Trojan poet
renounced his share of loss, the dregs of
failure remaining in his heart. There can
be no despair when it rains.
And I am as well as can be expected, with
merely a shudder in the muscle of the
imagination, insignificant cracks west of
my left shoulder.
Language is safe from all harm.
It will traverse the distance of this
damaged moment.
And this time, there will be no tale of loss,
even as the echo dismounted, ancient,
hoarse, rotting, and fumed at me.
I will forget the fog, smoke tobacco and
memories rolled in oblivion,
I will fill an urn with my hoarse voice, give
it to the wind to spite the clouds that may
not rain. I will fold up my bones, tuck
them into seats for the everlasting wait. 
I will remove the hat of my longing, put it
aside, and recite the psalm of autumn,
“As we created the first failure, so we will
retrieve it.”

From “Letters to a woman unseen”

عود على مطر

ضباب كثيف حجب الرؤية و غير إيقاع
الحياة. الشاعر الطروادي تنازل عن حصته
من الخسارة لما تبقى من الخيبة في إناء
،القلب، لا يأس مع المطر… أنا على ما يرام
مجرد ارتجاج في عضلة المخيلة، شروخ
طفيفة غرب ذراعي اليسرى، اللغة سالمة
من أي أذى، ستواصل هذا المدى في ساعة
الحاضر المعطوبة…  سوف لن تكون هناك
حكاية للعدم هذه المرة، حتى الصدى ترجل
عن حصانه، شاخ، بح صوته، تهرأ مزاجه
واستشاط غيضا مني، سأضرب صفحا عن
الضباب، سأدخن التبغ والذكريات لفائف
للنسيان، سأملأ للريح جرارا من صوتنا
،المبحوح نكاية بالسحابة التي قد لا تمطر
سأطوي عظامي في مقاعد للانتظار
الأزلي، وأضع قبعة الحنين جانبا، ثم أتلو
صلوات الخريف، كما بدأنا أول خيبة نعيدها
“من “رسائل إلى سيدة لا ترى

Waiting for the Poem

The night announced its mourning for the
pain sitting cross-legged on the hearts of
the forgotten. Perhaps I will only concern
my imagination with silence and the
passing grief of the soul. Perhaps I will
wrap myself in blue and die, hugging the
Poem’s body. Nothing can justify joy while
the heart leans on emptiness and
confusion. I frantically seek out those
turns in the road which are unstuck
from the mire of things. I approach the
page, wielding my pen. I announce my
imaginary war with the demeanor of a
philosopher, who has corrupted
everything. The rhythm of sentences does
not concern me; I care only to retrieve the
freedom of things. My complete freedom
from falseness and delusion. 
There is nothing quite like death on the
body of the poem. There is nothing like
receding from the falseness of
attachment. I belong to nothing but the
Poem. I carry the guitar of orphanhood,
that I may embroider its clothing. How
sweet are the drops of love pouring from
the face of the Poem, as it kisses me! It is
enough to wail over the wound I cradle.
I caught a glimpse of Rimbaud, hiding in
the African brush, surrendering to
temptations, leaving his Poem to sail
eternally. I saw Darwish’s beloved,
hanging the oppressors with cherries of
defeat, bemoaning the afflictions of her
people and her life. I saw the Poem,
freeing itself from Plato’s curse.
I discovered that life without the Poem is
lusterless shadow, or, at least, it is for me.
It behooves me to put everything in order,
as I wait for it. I transgress borders and burn
doors. I clean my room and the
bedsheets of longing. I polish the window
glass. I clear the darkness from Narcissus’
vision. I air out my jacket from the stench
of prose. I pour the wine, filling two
glasses. I banish the clamorous fly,
submerge the honeybee of dreams in the
lake of my Soul. I recall the dreams of
Shahrayar, and banish Shahrazad. I ally
myself with Imagination. And I allow for
the spilling of blood of all things. I
embrace death with a surging gentleness.
I dig a grave. I betray my lover and grant
the Poem my pillow. I idolize thought and
sensation. I free myself from the gargling
of meaningless chatter and the banalities
around my neck. I bury my inspiration in
the dirt of my heart, and plant dream-
trees around it. I sanctify the tree and the
statue. I hang the feral cats of politics,
wrench the wheat of the poor from their
ribs. I liberate the caged childhood. I fill
the dungeons with ravens and the
enemies of Freedom. These are dynasties
deserving of disgust.
Waiting for the poem, I long to be myself
and no one else. I wish to loosen the binds
of hidden desires, to free the Buraq of
madness from Myth’s prisons. Perhaps I
have become who I wish myself to be,
waiting for the Poem.

 في انتظار القصيدة

  يعلن الليل الحداد من أجل الوجع الذي
يتربع على قلوب المنسيين. يمكن أن أفرد
مخيلتي للصمت وللكآبة العابرة للروح. يمكن
أن أتلحف الأزرق وأموت عانقا جسد
القصيدة. لاشيء يبرر الفرح عندما يتعمد
القلب بالخواء والتيه. أبحث جاهدا عن
منعطفات بريئة من وحل الأشياء. أقترب من
الورقة، شاهرا قلمي. أعلن حربي الوهمية
بمزاج فيلسوف أتلف كل شيء. لا يهمني إيقاع
.الجمل ما يهمني استعادة براءة الأشياء
.براءتي من الزيف والوهم

،لاشيء يضاهي الموت على جسد القصيدة
،ولاشيء يماثل الانحلال من زيف الارتباطات
لا أنتمي إلا للقصيدة. أحمل قيثارة اليتم كي
أطرز ثوبها. ما أحلى قطرات العشق التي
تندلق من ثغر القصيدة حين تقبلني. يكفي أن
.أنتحب على الجرح الذي أحضنه

،لمحت رامبو يختفي في الأدغال الإفريقية
مستسلما للغوايات، تاركا قصيدته تواصل
إبحارها الأزلي. رأيت حبيبة درويش تشنق
الطغاة بكرز الهزيمة. تنتحب جرحها القومي
والإنساني. رأيت القصيدة تتخلص من لعنتها
،اكتشفت أن الحياة دونها، مجرد ظلال باهتة
على الأقل حياتي أنا. يتعين علي أن أرتب كل
شيء في انتظارها. أخترق الحدود وأحرق
الأبواب. أنظف غرفتي وشراشف الحنين
ألمع زجاج النافذة. أفرك الغبش عن عيون
.النرجس. أتخلص من رائحة النثر في معطفي
أصب نبيذا أصيلا وأملأ كأسين. أطرد ذباب
الصخب.  وأغمس نحلة الأحلام في بحيرة
الروح. أستعيد أحلام شهريار. وأطرد
.شهرزاد. أنصر المخيلة. أستبيح دم الأشياء
.أحضن الموت بحنان جارف. أحفر قبرا
أخون حبيبتي وأمنح القصيدة وسادتي. أوثن
الفكر والحواس. أتحرر من غرغرة الثرثرة
والتفاهات في حلقي. أدفن ملهمتي في تربة
قلبي. أغرس حولها أشجار الأحلام. أقدس
،الشجرة والتمثال. أشنق قطط السياسة
وأستخرج من أحشائها حنطة الفقراء. أحرر
الطفولة السجينة. وأملأ الزنازين بالغربان
.وأعداء الحرية. إنهم سلالات تستحق الغثيان
في انتظار القصيدة أحرص على أن أكون أنا
لا أحد غيري. أحب أن أطلق الغرائز الكامنة
من عقالها، وأحرر براق الجنون من قيود
الأسطورة. ربما صرت أنا الذي أريد أن
.أكونه في إنتظار القصيدة

The Forgotten Man’s Room

A person is forgotten, disappeared,
leaving behind him a pile of things which
remained to announce his death. A grey
sweater hung on the wall, an overturned
cup on scattered books, a layer of dust
atop well-read stories, a painful image, an
old notebook of memories, a broken
pencil, an eraser nibbled by longing.
This is how he found this room when he
returned, not knowing where he was. He
could have asked himself, but he didn’t;
the explanation of this myth seemed ever
more trivial than the myth itself. The room
itself awoke feelings aroused by the things
the dead leave behind. Maybe he is dead
somewhere, but here he is now, proudly
celebrating the experience. A little
sadness, and a lot of disdain for these things,
enjoying more longevity than their
owner. But feelings like these arrive and
depart suddenly.
The scent of books, wood, moisture,
coffee, bodies, perfume, dreams,
loneliness, being orphaned, being far from
home, panic, pain and forgetting…
The pallor of the cold chair, the dim light,
the toothbrush on the ground, the broken
glass of water, the dirty window, the wall
clock frozen at four, stopping time as it
waited for him. He sank into a chair,
thanked his things which remembered him
and waited for him in his absence, freed
his senses, submitting to the inner
Those who hurry, fuel the machine of
death. But those who tarry can become
sand disrupting the speeding machinery of
time. Remember that popular proverb:
“you rush, you die.”
He became intoxicated with the thought
of oblivion.
Water leaks from holes in the imagination;
he drowned in his thoughts… He packaged
oranges and fish for the hungry, spent the
night conversing with the marginalized
and forgotten on the edges of the city,
banished the shrieking raven to the
streets, the bars and the tops of trees, he
called out, screamed, cursed, but no one
hears the forgotten. He will never again
appear the way he was. He has become
nothing more than a wounded letter,
wrapped in bandages.

غرفة المنسي

ويختفي، تاركا وراءه
،ركام أشيائه التي قد تعلن الموت بعده
معطف رمادي معلق على الجدار، كوب
مقلوب فوق الكتب المبعثرة، قصاصات
ملاحظات علاها غبار، صورة الأم، دفتر
،الذكريات القديم، قلم الرصاص المكسور
ممحاة قضم منها فأر الحنين.. هكذا وجد
الغرفة بعد عودته، لا يدري أين كان؟
بإمكانه أن يسأل نفسه، لكنه لم يفعل لأن
شرح هذه الأسطورة يبدو أتفه منها. وحدها
الغرفة كانت توقظ تلك المشاعر المماثلة
للتي توقظها مخلفات الموتى، ربما كان
ميتا في مكان ما، وها هو الآن يحتفي بتلك
التجربة بفخر، قليلا من الحزن ومزيدا من
الكراهية للأشياء التي تتمتع بديمومة
أكثر من صاحبها، لكنها أحاسيس تأتي
وتذهب فجأة . رائحة الكتب والخشب
والرطوبة والبن والجسد والعطور والأحلام
والوحدة واليتم والغربة والضجر والألم
والنسيان.. شحوب الكرسي البارد، الضوء
الخافت، فرشاة الأسنان على الأرض، كأس
الماء المكسور، زجاج النافذة الداكن، ساعة
الحائط التي تجمد عقربيها عند الساعة
الرابعة، توقف الزمن في انتظاره، استرخى
على الكرسي، شكر أشياءه التي
تذكرته وانتظرته في غيابه، حرر حواسه
مستسلما للمونولوج الداخلي. المستعجلون
هم وقود آلة الموت، أما المتمهلون فبوسعهم
ان يكونوا رملا يحول دون حركة آلة
الزمن السريعة، تذكر المثل العامي: “اللي
زربوا ماتوا “. وانتشى بفكرة النسيان التي
.يقبع داخلها

تتسرب المياه من ثقب المخيلة، يغرق في
الأفكار.. يعبئ صناديق البرتقال والسمك
للفقراء الجائعين، يسامر الغرباء والمهمشين
المنسيين في ضواحي المدينة ، يطرد
الغربان الناعقة في الشوارع والحانات
وفوق الأشجار، ينادي، يصرخ، يلعن، لا
،أحد يسمع المنسي، لم يعد يرى كما كان
صار مجرد رسالة جريحة تلفها ضمادات

Translator’s Note

Shireen Hamza hails from Woodridge, a suburb of Chicago. She studied at an Islamic seminary in Karachi, where she memorized the Quran, and then at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where she studied literature and cognitive science. She is currently a doctoral student in Harvard University’s History of Science Department, studying the history of medicine in the Islamic world. She has been involved in organizing and performing at slam poetry venues with the Verbal Mayhem Poetry Collective, a space founded by Black and Latinx artists in the Rutgers and New Brunswick communities.

Ali Abdeddine was born in the south of Morocco, in the small town of Anguizem, in the region of Essaouira, where he memorized the Quran. For the past two years, he has taught Arabic language at the American Arabic Language Institute in Meknes. He has a master’s degree in Arabic literature from Moulayy Ismail University in Meknes, where he studied under the renowned literary critic, Benaissi Buhamala (بنعيسي بوحمالة). Ali is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in Amazigh literature at the Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines Ain Chock, in Casa Blanca. His doctoral research focuses on the work of Muhammad Mustawi (محمد مستاوي).

Samuel Martin translating Jean-Christophe Bailly

Amid the Mounting Ugliness

Amid the mounting ugliness
            the resistance of flowers is strange, is amazing
            “say it with”
            say it,
            simply: I see them: such
            and in their numbers
along the lines the Cherubinic Pilgrim set down
for all time (immer) in his notebook:
            Die Rose ist ohne warum
            “The rose is without a why”
            (we don’t know it, we forget it)
no one’s rose: Niemandsrose: yes
            but iris and peony just as well
and these branches decked in white flowers
forming a luminous explosion in spring
: burning bush, Spiraea

two characteristics are especially striking:
            1. the ephemeral nature of these lives
            2. their distance from ours
            (they are our world, we live with them
            but they know us not)

I’ll develop 1, then 2

1. on the ephemeral nature of plant occurrences
and flowerings first of all
rhetorical flowering is known and frequent
but over flowers is always cast the shadow of human time
floral itself by comparison, they say
along with the refrain “a rose, she lived as roses do…” (which is ugly)
yet it’s not in these terms that one should judge the brightness
envisage what appears,
what can be seen
 – they are series of states in constant flux
leaning evolutions, bearings
curved wonders, and “wonders” is already going too far
if what takes place – what is – behaves that way,
in other words naturally, in other words without intention
: we pass within, in this world without intention that bears us
in this world that bears us and is not turned toward us
with the morning dew, for instance, and each one is perfect
even those already wilted
(the most spectacular wilt being that of the iris:
in place of fading eyelashes the color
of veritable rotting flanks, and sticky)
how much time, how much time, how long do they last,
flowers, how long do you last?
a few days at most, a rising of sap in glory
then the end, quite sudden, and this verb: they wither
none of the tiny units of meaning released this way says anything
a few queens or an entire people
like Mechlin lace, and that’s all: it was thus
but there is – and our knowledge of this is vague – there is
a heritage for these passers-by, lineages, dynastic forms
they come back
and so it is that these forms swallowed up by time become
the mark of time itself
time, in other words the seasons
as they happen, as they come
late, now and then, one announcing another or carrying its train
and flowers hardly stand to the side of this endless succession
for they are themselves the journey,
always journeying, carried away, whisked away,
whisked away without cause in their pure finery of effects
with which, as we know, a scent can mingle, a fragrance faint or strong
and delicious depending on the case
that is to say, the most heady and volatile thing of all
: a signature, but borne in the air and soon dissolved
hence a quiver of time and the very emission of transience,
of the unenduring
“dissipates,” that’s what they say, and we find ourselves in the shrouded night
and in the light of day, and that’s no doubt why
it’s after dusk (when night falls on day, darkens it, augments the visible
with a veil it was waiting for and welcomes, but so calmly,
like that which has been so long awaited)
after dusk that it trembles most, and rises, gently,
it’s this word, “gently,” that perhaps does not belong,
for it’s more than gentle, sunk into itself and drifting away
like the “vanishing sound” of Chinese music, remaining suspended
in the air around things, yes, the paradox of continuous vanishing
such would be the sendoff, the flight, the falling back.

2. What comes, where they are, are they?
in the forests, meadows, gardens, a rumor of echoes spread
in other words a noiseless mist, each flower come down a notch
in the silence: the without-a-why returns to us and is itself
astonished: “the ever-receding world of flowers,” wrote
Novalis, and with him we could go down the length of the catalog
each name withdrawing its name in an endless fall out of meaning
there where they came in the first place, there where we picked them
the hardest thing being to think of this as a cascade
in which we are immersed
which is not, cannot be, the way in which they come, leave
and return, it is strangeness to us, entirely,
without eyes, outside the law of blood, floating, without thickness,
fractal surfaces unfolded, opening out in space
like so many points or nodes
they go their way, they’re outward bound, always
in clusters or by themselves, we see them,
they have no words, they carry their names
outside the field of words
say it with flowers they used to say and so it’s a language
although silent and it’s as such that at the end they accompany us
in sprays and swaths over the dead I remember
an ocean of garlands and wreaths flooding
the crematorium steps
although captive there like the creatures in the zoo
and like them condemned to visibility
they continue to rebel against this capture
precisely as if, open, they were closing:
and the dead go their way flanked by the gentle fury of this silence.

Dans l’enlaidissement aggravé

Dans l’enlaidissement aggravé
            la résistance des fleurs est étrange, est énorme
            « dîtes-le avec »
            simplement : je les vois : telles
            et dans leurs quantités
selon le mode que le pèlerin chérubinique, pour toujours (immer)
a consigné dans son cahier :
            Die Rose ist ohne warum
            « La rose est sans pourquoi »
            (on ne le sait pas, on l’oublie)
rose de personne : Niemandsrose : oui
            mais aussi bien iris ou pivoine
et ces branches couvertes de fleurs blanches
formant une explosion lumineuse au printemps
: le buisson ardent, les spirées

deux caractéristiques sont particulièrement frappantes :
            1. le caractère éphémère de ces vies
            2. leur éloignement par rapport à la nôtre
            (elles sont notre monde, nous habitons avec elles
            mais elles ne nous connaissent pas)

Je développerai 1, puis 2

1. sur le caractère éphémère des occurrences végétales
et premièrement des floraisons
la floraison rhétorique est avérée et nombreuse
mais toujours porte sur les fleurs l’ombre de la durée humaine
florale elle aussi par comparaison, disent-ils
selon le refrain « et rose elle a vécu… » (qui est moche)
or ce n’est pas à cette aune qu’il faut mesurer l’éclat
envisager ce qui paraît,
ce qui se voit
– ce sont des successions d’états qui ne s’installent jamais
des devenirs penchés, des allures
des prodiges courbés et prodiges est déjà bien trop dire
si ce qui a lieu – ce qui est – se conduit de la sorte,
c’est-à-dire naturellement, c’est-à-dire sans intention
: nous passons dedans, dans ce monde sans intention qui nous porte
dans ce monde qui nous porte et qui n’est pas tourné vers nous
au matin par exemple avec la rosée et chacune est parfaite
même les déjà flétries
(le flétrissement le plus spectaculaire étant celui des iris :
en lieu et place d’un évanouissement de cils dans la couleur
de véritables hampes pourries, et qui collent)
combien de temps, combien de temps, quelle est leur durée,
fleurs, quelle est votre durée ?
quelques jours tout au plus, une montée de sève et en gloire
puis la fin, très vite, et ce verbe : elles se fanent
aucune des petites unités de sens ainsi libérées ne dit rien
quelques reines ou tout un peuple
comme celui de la dentelle de Malines et c’est tout : ce fut
mais il y a – et nous en avons un obscur savoir – il y a
pour ces passantes un héritage, des lignées, des formes dynastiques
elles reviennent
et voici que ces formes avalées par le temps deviennent
la marque du temps lui-même
le temps c’est-à-dire les saisons
comme elles se font, comme elles viennent
avec retard, parfois, l’une annonçant l’autre ou en emportant la traîne
or de cette suite sans fin les fleurs ne s’exilent pas
puisqu’elles sont elles-mêmes le voyage,
en voyage, toujours, les emmenées, les emportées,
les emportées sans cause dans leur pure parure d’effets
où se mêle parfois, on le sait, un parfum, une odeur forte ou ténue
et délicieuse selon les cas
soit ce qui est le plus entêtant et le plus volatil
: une signature, mais portée dans l’air et aussitôt dissoute
c’est donc du temps frémi et l’émission même de l’éphémère,
du sans durée
« se dissipe », c’est ce qu’on dit, et là nous sommes dans la nuit du cache
et en plein jour et c’est pourquoi, sans doute,
c’est au soir (quand nuit tombe sur jour, l’assombrit, augmentant le visible
d’un voile qu’il attendait et qu’il accueille, mais si calmement,
comme ce qui a été tant attendu)
au soir que ça tremble le plus, et s’élève, doucement,
c’est ce mot, « doucement », que peut-être il ne faudrait pas,
car c’est plus que doux, enfoncé en soi et s’en allant comme
le « son disparaissant » de la musique chinoise, tout en restant en suspens
dans l’air autour des choses, oui, le paradoxe d’une disparition continue
tels seraient l’envoi, l’envol, la retombée.

2. Ce qui vient, où elles sont, le sont-elles ?
dans les forêts, les prés, les jardins, rumeur d’échos propagée
c’est-à-dire une brume muette chaque fleur descendue d’un cran
dans le silence : le sans pourquoi nous revient et c’est lui-même
qui s’étonne : « éloignement infini du monde des fleurs » a écrit
Novalis et nous pourrions descendre avec lui le long du catalogue
chaque nom retirant son nom dans une chute infinie hors du sens
là où elles sont venues tout d’abord, là où nous les avons cueillies
le plus difficile étant d’y penser comme à une cascade
où nous serions immergés
ce qui n’est pas, ne peut pas être, la façon dont elles viennent, partent
et reviennent, c’est l’étrangeté pour nous, entièrement,
sans yeux, hors de la loi du sang, flottantes, sans épaisseur,
surfaces fractales dépliées s’ouvrant dans l’espace
comme autant de points ou de nœuds
elles s’en vont, elles sont en partance, toujours
en grappes ou isolées, on les voit,
elles n’ont pas de parole, elles emmènent leurs noms
hors du champ des paroles
dîtes-le avec des fleurs disaient-ils et c’est donc un langage
quoique muet et c’est comme tel qu’à la fin il nous accompagne
en gerbes et en jonchées sur les morts je me souviens
d’un océan de guirlandes et de couronnes envahissant
les marches du crématorium
quoique captives alors comme les animaux du zoo
et comme eux condamnées à la visibilité
elles demeurent rétives à cette capture
exactement comme si ouvertes elles se fermaient :
et les morts s’en vont bordés par la furieuse douceur de ce silence.

Bailly’s poem originally appeared in issue 7 of the journal Hippocampe, April 2012, on pp. 115-117.

Translator’s Note

The title of a recent collection of texts by Jean-Christophe Bailly, L’Élargissement du poème (2015), sums up the task he has now been pursuing for over 40 years: that of expanding the poem, broadening its horizons while freeing it from outmoded generic constraints. After all, the verb élargir, besides meaning to widen, can also mean to release a prisoner – and “Amid the Mounting Ugliness” attempts one such rescue, plucking flowers from the syrup of poetic cliché. For all its imitation of an academic exercise, there is nothing clichéd or conventional about Bailly’s poem, down to the sparsely punctuated flow of some lines that may recall in passing the verse of Guillaume Apollinaire. (Bailly has a fond memory of being given a dictation from Apollinaire’s Alcools as a schoolboy, and his sense of exhilaration – not to say relief! – at the lack of punctuation.) Apollinaire’s irregular sonnet “Les Colchiques” (“Autumn Crocuses”) uses a similarly disrupted prosody to alert the reader that all is not what it seems, yet even with its bitter irony, the poem’s conceit – comparing a woman to a flower – tends toward the kind of anthropomorphism that “Amid the Mounting Ugliness” rejects. Bailly draws instead on a triad of German-language writers, namely Angelus Silesius, Novalis, and Paul Celan, all of whom invoke the irreducible distance between the realm of flowers and that of humans. These references already crop up in Bailly’s botanical musings from 1997’s Le Propre du langage, a book that revels in the evocative power of common nouns. “Amid the Mounting Ugliness,” meanwhile, leans more on its verbs, emphasizing the astoundingly active existence of the flowers that, once we unlearn the tired reflexes of lyric sentimentality and commercial appropriation, we may yet come to contemplate for what they are.

Samuel Martin teaches French at the University of Pennsylvania. His translations have appeared in The Adirondack ReviewDoublespeakVisions International, and Jacket2. His interview with Jean-Christophe Bailly, “Sillages de l’éveil,” was published in the March 2015 issue of The French Review.

Jean-Christophe Bailly is increasingly recognized as one of the major voices of contemporary European literature. Pushing the rich legacy of German Romanticism into the 21st century, his work lies at the confluence of numerous genres and disciplines, including poetry, philosophy, theater, art history, urban and animal studies. Among his recent books are Le Dépaysement: Voyages en France (winner of the Prix Décembre, 2011), Le Parti pris des animaux (2013), and L’Élargissement du poème (2015).