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About this poet

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese writer and the author of many books, including Nettles (Graywolf Press, 2008), A House at the Edge of Tears (Graywolf Press, 2005), and She Says (Graywolf Press, 2003). Her honors include the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres for Fables pour un people d’argile, the Prix Apollinaire, and the Prix Mallarmé, and she was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2000. Her work has been translated into several languages. She lives in Paris.

[Where do words come from?]

Where do words come from?
from what rubbing of sounds are they born
on what flint do they light their wicks
what winds brought them into our mouths

Their past is the rustling of stifled silences
the trumpeting of molten elements
the grunting of stagnant waters

Sometimes
they grip each other with a cry
expand into lamentations
become mist on the windows of dead houses
crystallize into chips of grief on dead lips
attach themselves to a fallen star
dig their hole in nothingness
breathe out strayed souls

Words are rocky tears
the keys to the first doors
they grumble in caverns
lend their ruckus to storms
their silence to bread that's ovened alive

From She Says by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker, published by Graywolf Press, May 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

From She Says by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker, published by Graywolf Press, May 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese writer and the author of many books, including Nettles (Graywolf Press, 2008), A House at the Edge of Tears (Graywolf Press, 2005), and She Says (Graywolf Press, 2003).

by this poet

poem
The first day after his death 
she folded up her mirrors 
put a slipcover on the spider web
then tied up the bed which was flapping its wings to take off

The second day after his death 
she filled up her pockets with wood chips 
threw salt over the shoulder of her house 
and went off with a tree under each arm