Poetry by Maram al-Masri, translated by Theo Dorgan

MARAM AL-MASRI

Born in Syria, long-time exiled in Paris, Maram al-Masri has built up a devoted international following for her poems, which she writes in both Arabic and French. She writes with a clarity and directness that pierces to the heart of things, most especially in poems that remorselessly trace the destruction of her homeland, that inquire with a cool intelligence into the condition of women in our time. 

In her collection LE RAPT, which I have translated as THE ABDUCTION she writes of the pain that entered her life when her husband abducted their infant son and took him to grow up in Syria. Years later, a grown man, the son returned to Paris, a virtual stranger, but still bound in the bonds of her heart.

THE ABDUCTION will be published in September 2020 by Southword Editions. Dorgan has also translated BAREFOOT SOULS (Arc, UK) and LIBERTY WALKS NAKED, also from Southword Editions.

11

With these two hands

I have prepared your suitcase for you,

your father has told me

he’s taking you on a short trip

to a city by the sea.

Into your case I have put

your best clothes

because my little one is going for a walk by the sea.

I have also put in

the cakes that you love

and everything you might need

because my little one is going for a walk by the sea.

With these two hands

I have placed you in your stroller

happy

because my little one is going for a walk by the sea.

The evening passed —

and until this day

my little one’s stroller has not come back.

12

O human brothers!

O world!

I had a child

I hid him in my belly

he shared my body

I nourished him with my blood.

I had him share in my dreams

I sang for him, he smiled

I carried him, he stopped crying.

He was torn from my arms,

I ceased to sing.

19

Far from my arms

you sleep in a bed that is not yours,

you no longer see my face

nor my eyes that you would look into with such love.

You can no longer take my hand

as you used to do

before falling asleep.

At night you will wake

and murmur ‘Mother’,

to a woman who is not me.

Far from my eyes 

you will grow

you will go to school

and I will not be waiting for you at the gate,

you will fall ill

and I will not be worrying there beside you.

I will recognise neither your face nor your voice

I will not recognise your smell

nor what you wear;

you will rest in my memory

the eighteen month old child

they kidnapped from me.

37

At my door two suitcases

and a young man

tall and thin

dark brown

hesitant, like someone who has lost his way.

At my door, two worn suitcases

like the clothes of a dockworker

in the port of a poor city.

They smell of far-off places

memories

histories,

like a prisoner’s chains.

A young dark brown man

with black hair

his black eyes swimming

in a white sea,

he knocks on the door

of my heart

About the contributor

Theo Drogan
Theo Dorgan is a poet, and also a non-fiction prose writer, novelist, editor, documentary screenwriter, essayist and translator. Among his recent publications are LIBERTY WALKS NAKED (2017) and BAREFOOT SOULS (2015), translations from the French of the Syrian poet Maram al-Masri. His most recent collections of poems are NINE BRIGHT SHINERS — awarded the Irish Times/Poetry Now Prize for best collection in 2015 — and ORPHEUS, published in 2018, both from Dedalus Press. BAILÉID GIOFÓGACHA, his translations of Lorca's Romancero Gitano into Irish, appeared in 2019. He is a member of Aosdána.

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