passageways-294By Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

from Issue 18: Counterfeits


The cloud hanging over the valley has been there forever
Trains come from the coast cross it without stopping
Gloomy travelers would photograph the cemetery but not the children, despite the
    little bells they wore on their ankles
Standing on the rooftops
We loosed their names in the air with holiday balloons
We invited them to share the cries of our ears of corn
And touch the mouldy robe of the Saint in her reliquary
We would beg them to carry away in their luggage the wind’s hyena laughter when it
    rained on the winter
And rained on the cemetery and the well-preserved smiles of the dead cramped
    beneath their windowpane
And the mothers shook out the sheets to drive away stubborn souls and
    when they cried for no reason
With the same movements the mothers drove off jackals and God who had no place in
    their beehives
Nor in our book whose pages we turned in the other direction than the planet’s


Vénus Khoury-Ghata is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Prize Apollinaire and the Prize Mallarmé. Originally born in Beirut, she moved to Paris in 1972 and has lived there ever since. She is the author of over twenty books.

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poetry and the translator of ten volumes. She has been awarded the Robert Fagles Translation Prize, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the National Book Award for her own book, Presentation Piece.

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