Poems from Words Without Borders: fall 2018
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Fady Joudah
All this talk through a tunnel 
of kid gloves and landmines went underground.

You were catching my limbs
in sequels and spoofs, commemoration my organs

with friends lost, whose names like patients’ names.
Our clumped desire stirs and how

when unwound, as with DNA, it sweetly wounds us.
Hope in the right place, you said, is hope misplaced

or no hope at all. But I say, in my dreams I dream, 
in my dreams I do not hope.

Where were you when was I? Counting down
the decades for the prize as victim of our previous war.

Were you my cactus heart and kelp forest,
a gluttonous hunger I ate myself famished,

an app, a tower or two, and flew 
as a swan flies into a sand file that said, 

“No more monkeys dead on the bed”?
In my dreams the universe anneals for tents 

that fall like mamas from heaven.
And you were tablet and me pill,

surgery and me drone, firefly
and me shooting star, where

when my clone was made interminable 
no illness could.

And the space between raindrops a shelter,
the mountaintop a lake,

the gecko an oriole, the athel a bulbul,
and I was seagrass and you 

the banyan.

Originally published in the September 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. © 2018 by Fady Joudah. By arrangement with the author. All rights reserved.

Poems from Words Without Borders: fall 2018
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Lela Samiashvili
translated by Mac Dunlop and Natalia Bukia-Peters

Three years ago, during the war, our house was burgled.
When I returned everything was upside down,
Our possessions had probably borne those alien fingers with hatred.

They stole my gold ring and several bottles of wine.
They were probably in a hurry—only the drawers had been emptied. 
They took nothing from the shelves.

And yet I was grateful—they had not burned my family album,
nor ripped up my books, even that they had left the house at all.
This will always be my shameful gratitude.

And today, just around the corner, almost in town
the military drills sound again as my child sleeps
in the room, while each passing tick of the clock feels like a slap in the face.

One-man empires threaten everything.
Our skeletons for them are sticks and stones,
as if they would fight each other using our bones as weapons.

As for us, let us carry our invisible kingdoms 
through alien lands and alien harvests, for all eyes to see
kingdoms where we ourselves are the crowned kings.

Let us carry them, and in this coziness 
let us have temporary shelter
until dwarfs and giants drill into them and crush them.

My child, I am ashamed of these tales. Don’t get accustomed to 
malevolent endings like “the plague is there and so joy here.”
That doesn't exist. If it could, you mustn't wish for it.

Bringing out of our hidden kingdoms
this inherited tumor, this love not for homeland but for soil.  
The lullaby of the machine gun.

Who can escape his own charisma,
when time so firmly, so loyally
hardens the fontanels of all our children.

Originally published in the September 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. © Lela Samniashvili. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Mac Dunlop. All rights reserved.

Poems from Words Without Borders: fall 2018
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P. K.
a velvet chair
standing by itself
	      on a highway
a chair standing by itself on a highway
means its life is over
a life of ups and downs
	       before it was brought here
		             and left beside the grass
nevertheless
it was laid down squarely
maybe 
thanks to a final gesture of love
with all four legs standing against the asphalt
this rushes an image to my mind:
	      a wandering soul who leisurely sits here
between the passing cars
	      and the mud
but really no soul can be so foolish 
	      to come and sit on a torn old abandoned chair
		            on a dark cold rainy September afternoon
			                  on a lightless highway
or 
to give the chair
a little consolation
I conclude as follows:

	       there exists such a soul
	       just that he, or she, is 
not here
		             not now

Originally published in the November 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. “Cái ghế giữa xa lộ vào một buổi chiều mưa” first published in Tiền Vệ (www.tienve.org). © P.K. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by P.K. All rights reserved.

 

Poems from Words Without Borders: fall 2018
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Irakli Kakabadze
Translated from the Georgian by Mary Childs

Today is the First of September and
As natural,
As the sun’s setting and rising,
The flowers’ budding and wilting, 
The healing of open wounds,
And death. 
This isn’t a school bell ringing, 
It’s the bells of a church.
The mothers woke us up from our summer games,
But the fathers took our hands more sternly and
more proudly than never before. 
The fathers left work for the market,
Carrying heavy bags and
All kinds of thoughts and rubbish  
in their heads.
We left toys with wilted smiles on the beds,
Little sisters and brothers in the windows,
Grandmothers who had combed our hair and
Crossed us as we were leaving home,
To meet with God, or our first teachers.  
Here, our empty, silent notebooks,
Here, our unopened books and flat, inanimate illustrations,
The red pens, which retain their strictness, but can’t express it,
A roster, read from the grade book with no answers,
Desks without purpose and
The boards, painted black,
On which is written our first, short history.
Here, our flowers for you, who
Were supposed to open the door of life’s wisdom for us,
But the flowers have chosen a better fate. 
Again, light backpacks
Are hanging like crosses upon our weak shoulders and
White shirts—
Like sacrificial lambs, we make our way to the last class.
Don’t look at the road so often,
We won’t return from here,
We continued our summer games and
We are hiding behind September first.

Originally published in the September 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. © Irakli Kakabadze. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by Mary Childs. All rights reserved.

Poems from Words Without Borders: fall 2018
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Pháp Hoan
Translated from the Vietnamese by Kaitlin Rees

1
Love
I liberate the captive herd within me
I summon back the fossilized kisses

2
If things have souls then things bear static souls

3
Hungry birds are building nests in space
Affliction gathers in the handkerchief of a bride on her wedding day

4
We kidnap fear by the sharp-edged tongue of a knife

5
The sound of your crying purifies the darkness
A sacred place is where I begin an entrance

6
Each grain of sand is the carcass of a dried star
Distilled in the deep pool of tears

7
Dissonant music lingers in the bodiless ear of the present tense

8
Truth is the wafting shadowy zone of doubt

9
The night deepened
The toiling laborers continued beating moon rock

10
In the rat-hole quarters
Cheap dreams have no anchor to hold
They float together straight down pipes after an unseasonable rain

11
If the sheep become authors
They will write about their innocence being lost

12
We
Evolved animals
Excessively preoccupied with petty calculation
While in trees with a tribe of orangutans
Naturally admiring the moon in ascent behind mountain tops

13
The loneliness in a dark corner contorts a self-constructed pain
I welcomeparty a friend from afar at the first break of light
The wind blows across the sky of Brothersisterhood

14
Buddha never speaks precisely about Truth except for when the Sir is protecting silence

15
The lunchtime napping people are evolving a dreamy fountain of energy

16
Buddha is assembling a labyrinth of love exclusively reserved for evil

17
Your heart infuses my heart with a consoling word packed with spring bounty
Not a fresh flower remains on the Sunday morning eating table
Dusty rain beyond the garden makes a pair of hands far exceed cerulean

18
Pass me along to the lighthouse and burn me bright like fire
Let me become the jagged underground rocks that rupture a boat in the night
Let me grow like the flecks of light breeding in the deranged brain of a man
Let me chant while watching my standing legs battered and buried in the hurricane

19
The mutual affection in a couple of supine beings asleep beneath a shadowy patch of orange trees
Amorous feelings in repose and a summer of increasing heat
In the cluttered tunnels of stacked sensual flesh
They search for each other beneath scalding bellows of a ruminating ox with broken horns

20
Indulge yourself in the food of breasts teeming with life
Netting hope throughout the jungle with a web of sound
Carry the wandering songs of those romancing strollers within
Entangled fresh flowers climb up the roof where the spring rain flutters

21
In a midnight dream this spring
The East was a river skin of visionary sleep
I sense I am a lethargic carp lost in thought
Drifting with the stream and gulping stars as they take shape

22
The universe can be constructed out of the dried skeleton of a mythical deity
This morning a steamroller’s pulverized dust billowblurrs every place
As hundreds of planets open their delirious eyes plunging head first into each other
The bloated vigor in every desiccated vein of the late harvest flowers

23
Everything around us is blindingly present
A rose a gripped cinder a hand a scythe
A clenched diamond can be launched into each corner edge of the present
Time putrefies with its abiding richness!

24
All people should self-immolate their faces and on them search for light

25
Humans will be mutually set free upon entering the final judgment day
All saints should be too

26
If people could live one thousand years then there would remain neither guilds of saints nor of the woeful

27
The conscience is a grain of sand in the shoe of Consciousness

28
Only those with true digression step in hoping search for home

Originally published in the November 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. "Những mảnh vỡ" © Pháp Hoan. First published in Pháp Hoan, Lịch mùa, AJAR press, 2016. By arrangement with the author. Translation © Kaitlin Rees. All rights reserved