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Rachida Madani



Time passes and takes half
her face away
while of the other half so few
words remain
so few images
that she can’t make
a poor book.
So little saliva that scraping dryness
her voice cracks and breaks.
Lost, the dream of the howling seas
storming the jade palaces
lost because of the spell wishing
Shahrayar long life and prosperity.
She can no longer take off in pursuit of
the renegades.
She can no longer advance
she can no longer say if it hurts
she no longer knows if she writes haltingly
or if the words fly into her face.
She no longer knows with which stick
to root around which space.
She writes as if blind
& fear is her companion.

(Book 2)







Through what rip
path of violence and blood
did you enter
into this body without shadow?
An oasis quick
a well
a truce.
Death laughter’s sidekick
laughter’s claws
launches its vultures
on my bare shoulders.
If I fall the sun hits
and road snakes assault me
lead my caravans astray.
If toward heaven I attempt
a scream of rage and agony
my call loses itself
in a silence always stronger
than the storm.
But allied to the
quicksands my scream
makes the pathway toward oblivion


translated by Pierre Joris







from: Rachida Madani, “Contes d'une tête tranché” in Blessures au vent, Clepsydre/Éditions de la Différence, 2006.


Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris has moved between Europe, the US & North Africa for 55 years, publishing over 80 books of poetry, essays, translations & anthologies — most recently his Celebratory Talk-Essay on Receiving the Batty Weber Award (CNL, Literary Talks series), Fox-trails, -tales & -trots (poems & proses, Black Fountain Press), & the translations Agadir by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine (with Jake Syersak, Dialogos Press), Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry of Paul Celan (FSG) & Microliths: Posthumous Prose of Paul Celan (CMP) as well as A City Full of Voices: Essays on the Work of Robert Kelly. Further recent titles include Arabia (not so) Deserta (essays on Maghrebi & Mashreqi literature & culture, Spuyten Duyvil 2019), Conversations in the Pyrenees with Adonis (CMP 2018), & The Book of U/ Le livre des cormorans (with Nicole Peyrafitte, Simoncini 2017).  Forthcoming are Always the Many, Never the One: Conversations in-between, with Florent Toniello & Interglacial Narrows (Poems 1915-2021). Also: Diwan of Exiles: A Pierre Joris Reader (with Ariel Resnikoff, 2023). When not on the road, he lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with his wife, multimedia praticienne Nicole Peyrafitte.

Rachida Madani

RACHIDA MADANI was born in Tangiers, Morocco, in 1951, and still lives there, now retired from a career teaching French. A careful writer who says “I love to savor my words, especially when I find the one I need in the place it needs to be” she has published three collections of poetry since 1981 when her first book, called Femme je suis (Woman I am), came out. It was Mohamed Serifi, a high profile political prisoner who shared the poems with others in prison & encouraged Madani to publish them. “To shut up is not fair,” says Madani, but also: “I am a passive militant. I don’t know how to scream slogans or brandish banderoles. I militate with my words.” When Abdellatif Laâbi was freed from prison, Madani asked him to preface her book.” “He told me that if he did that, the book would never be published. I insisted and indeed it is because of his efforts that Femme je suis was published in France in 1981.”


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2016

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