The Earth Opens and Welcomes You

Abdellatif La‚bi


To the memory of Tahar Djaout*

on the day of his funeral

The earth opens
and welcomes you
Why these cries, these tears
these prayers
What have they lost
What are they looking for
those who trouble
your refound peace?
The earth opens
and welcomes  you
you will converse without witnesses
O you have things to tell each other
and you'll have eternity to do so
Yesterday's words tarnished by the tumult
will one by one engrave themselves on silence
The earth opens
and welcomes you
She alone has desired you
without you making any advances
She has waited for you with Penelopian ruses.
Her patience was but goodness
and it is goodness brings you back to her
The earth opens
and welcomes you
she won't ask you to account
for your ephemeral loves
daughters of errancy
meat stars conceived in the eyes
accorded fruits from the vast orchard of life
sovereign passions that make sun
in the palm's hollow
at the tip of the tipsy tongue
The earth opens
and welcomes you
You are naked
She is even more naked than you
And you are both beautiful
in that silent embrace
where the hands know how to hold back
to avoid violence
where the soul's butterfly
turns away from this semblance of light
to go in search of its source
The earth opens
and welcomes you
Your loved one will find again some day
your legendary smile
and the mourning will be over
Your children will grow up
and will read your poems without shame
your country will heal as if by miracle
when the men exhausted by illusion
will go drink from the fountain of your goodness
O my friend
sleep well
you need it
for you have worked hard
as an honest man
Before leaving
you left your desk clean
well ordered
You turned off the lights
said a nice word to the guardian
And then as you stepped out
you looked at the sky
its near-painful blue
You elegantly smoothed your mustache
telling yourself:
only cowards
consider death to be an end
Sleep well my friend
Sleep the sleep of the just
let us for awhile carry the burden

Créteil, June 4, 1993

*An Algerian journalist and author murdered in Algiers in 1993

From The World's Embrace by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Translation copyright © 2003 by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Reproduced by permission of City Lights Publishers. All rights reserved.

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