37. Aluminum Oxide

No one offered you a courtyard

where sometimes you’d see

pin-headed soldiers

standing beneath the trees

Apples fallen everywhere

A good many women

in seemingly good spirits

speak incomprehensibly

jabbering as they pass by

legs reflected in the water

Many flowers

two buds

by Gu Cheng, China


The Question Mark

Poor thing. Poor crippled measure of

punctuation. Who would know,

who could imagine you used to be

an exclamation point?

What force bent you over?

Age, time and the vices

of this century?

Did you not once evoke,

call out and stress?

But you got weary of it all,

got wise and turned like this.

by Gevorg Emin, Armenia

Old Mountains Want To Turn To Sand

I have my roots inside me,

a skein of red threads.

The stones have their roots inside them,

like fine little ferns.

Wrapped around their softness

the stones sleep hard.

For centuries they have rested

under the sun.

Old mountains

want to turn to sand.

They let themselves go

and open up to water.

After centuries of thirst!

Like language–

that great mountain broken up

by our tongues.

We turn language to sand,

immersing the tongue

in a running stream

that moves mountains.

–Tommy Olofsson, Sweden


The Meaning Of Simplicity

I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me,

if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things,

you’ll touch what my hand has touched,

our hand prints will merge.


The August moon glitters in the kitchen

like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way

because of what I’m saying to you),

it lights up the empty house and

the house’s kneeling silence–

always the silence remains kneeling.


Every word is a doorway

to a meeting, one often cancelled,

and that’s when a word is true:

when it insists on the meeting.

–Yannis Ritsos, Greece

Wind’s Foam

Nothing lasts, behold.
Behold how the leaves, the flowers, the old villagers,
the pose of rivers’ dancing, the brazen pitchers and
the fire of hookah
and the flock of grown up girls gradually diminish
like the monsoon of Hilsa fish !
The yellow leaves, sounding in the wind,
fall down on the droughty desolate land.
The foreign ducks too,
on whose bodies there are millions of bubbles, fly away
into the shallow blue cup of the sky.

Why doesn’t anything last long?
The corrugated iron sheet, the hay or the muddy walls
and the undecaying banyan tree of village
get uprooted by the terrible typhoon of Chittagong.
The plaster splits and in the long run the mosque of our village,
like our Faith, collapses down with a heavy crash.

The nests of sparrows, the love, the twigs and tendrils
and the covers of books fall off twisted.
By the water’s bite of the Meghna,
the crops’ green scream of the horizon starts trembling.
The houses float, float the pitchers and the cowsheds.
Like the affection of my elder sister, the old
embroidered pillow gets also sunk.
After the decay of dwelling-houses, nothing exists more.
Only the birds, fond of water, flying in the sky
wipe off the foam of wind from their beaks.

–Al Mahmud, Bangladesh

The Indians

The Indians


maze after maze

with their emptiness on their backs.

In the past

they were warriors over all things.

They put up monuments to fire

and to the rains whose black fists

put the fruit in the earth.

In the theaters of their cities of colors

shone vestments

and crowns

and golden masks

brought from faraway enemy empires.

They marked time

with numerical precision.

They gave their conquerors

liquid gold to drink

and grasped the heavens

like a tiny flower.

In our day

they plow and seed the ground

the same as in primitive times.

Their women shape clay

and the stones of the field, or weave

while the wind

disorders their long, coarse hair,

like that of goddesses.

I’ve seen them barefoot and almost nude,

in groups,

guarded by voices poised like whips,

or drunk and wavering with the pools of the setting sun

on the way back to their shacks

in the last block of the forgotten.

I’ve talked with them up in their refuges

there in the mountains watched over by idols

where they are happy as deer

but quiet and deep

as prisoners.

I’ve felt their faces

beat my eyes until the dying light

and so have discovered

my strength is neither

sound nor strong.

Next to their feet

that all the roads destroyed

I leave my own blood

written on an obscure bough.


–Roberto Sosa, Honduras

In His Room

In his room the man watches

light shine on the fruit

the apples gathering shadows

the shadows of resting pears

the watermelon’s gash

of liquid pulp

the ancient figs

among solemn walnuts

at night in his room

the man watches fruit

–Homero Aridjis, Mexico

Travel Journal Entry

Travel List:

bug spray






9:42 TGV 9566 platform 1

Hotel de la Comete

196 Boulevard de la Villete, La Villete near 19e

Left here…

June 23rd first impressions:

our ridiculous walk to find the Moulin Rouge 

left my feet blistered and bruised

hungry i am, but money must be preserved 

for the next train

thank god for all the pasta and bread to

fill the belly

Notre Dame made me want to sing to the hunchback

and in between the stares 

constant glares 

i found out that crepes can be savory

graffiti subways

public muggings



The Prison Cell

The Prison Cell

It is possible especially now

To ride a horse

Inside a prison cell

And run away…

It is possible for prison walls

To disappear,

For the cell to become a distant land

The prison guard got angry.

He put an end to the dialogue

He said he didn’t care for poetry,

And bolted the door of my cell.


He came back to see me

–Where did all this water come from?

–I brought it from the Nile.

–And the trees?

–From the orchards of Damascus.

–And the music?

–From my heartbeat.


The prison guard got mad,

But returned in the evening

–Where did this moon come from?

–From the nights of Baghdad.

–And the wine?

–From the vineyards of Algiers.

–And this freedom?

–From the chain you tied me with last night.


The prison guard grew so sad…

He begged me to give him back

His freedom.

by Mahmud Darwish, Palestine

Translated and abridged by Ben Bennani