Poetry Fadwa Suleiman
Translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Hacker

Rain on rain
And mud on mud
My grandmother weaves the story
With a thread of sun
And a thread of moon
She grinds her words
In the mill of her breath and scatters them
Among the stars

Rain on rain
And mud on clay
My grandmother turns with the earth
And kneads sand into her wine
At moonrise

Rain on rain
And mud on mud
She attaches the sea to a pen
And spreads its breath on a page
She dries the salt on her knees
Gives birth to clouds
She makes fountains of her breasts
Gives birth to the grass

Rain on rain
And mud on clay
At night my grandmother sows cities
That grow at daybreak
And she sings to the reeds

Rain on rain
He writes on the clay
We have taken the one in the sky as our witness
And he said
The sky comes from you
The sky is for you
My grandmother locked
All the doors with the cry of her blood

Rain on rain
And the clay tablets say
We have taken the one in the sky as our witness
He asked for blood
And would not accept our harvests
The sky is mine
My grandmother barricaded
The doors with the cry of her blood

Rain on rock
Blood on the grass
And grass above the blood
Blood leads to blood
Half of you will be slaughtered by the other half
And the sky has bolted its doors

Rain on rain
And mud on mud
Each time a herd of gazelles goes by
The hunters devour them
Though they already had gorged themselves

She lowered her eyes
And stopped
She did not find her own face
Horses’ hooves had smashed the face of the earth
They carried death and the dead on their backs
This time their faces didn’t tell her their destination
Her own face fell
She did not find her eyes
She knelt down
The hooves went on crushing the face of the earth
Glistening now in another direction
The horses’ hooves arrived at the precipice
Trampling the chrysanthemums back to the womb
Then they all plunged into the desert’s abyss
There is no way out if you kill
Your victory will teeter on one leg
There will be a crown of blood on your head

Rain on rain
And mud on clay
My grandmother sets her fingers on fire waiting
For a prodigal to return
She gives off an odor of blood
My grandmother is still a virgin

At daybreak
A child got up out of the rubble
He looked for his mother
He pushed away the rocks around her
He shook her hard but she didn’t wake up
He called all of his brothers’ and sisters’ names
He turned back to his mother, crying out
I won’t trust you anymore after today, Mama
You sang to the doves
That no one would slit their throats.
On his birthday
In the orphanage
He wrote on the wall with a bird’s feather:
I trust my mother
She never learned how grown-ups have fun
She never knew how they colored my brothers and sisters,
Colored her too
Colored everything red
She didn’t yell at them
Because they played at knocking down houses
She didn’t shout in their faces
When they set my swingset
And Hala’s house on fire
She did not cry out
When they lined my father up against the wall with the neighbors
And shot crayons from their rifles
That colored their heads all red
Red, Mama
Kept you from shouting
Or blaming anyone
The child who is no longer a child continues
To make doves fly wherever he can
And his heart is red.

Rain on rain
And mud on mud
She bends her neck to the wind
And her waist to the trunk of a fruit tree
Bends her knees to the pebbles
And her forehead to the dust
She offers her fingers to the bees
And her teeth to the truth
Her songs to the reeds
And her feet to the roots
Her blood to the wedding of pollen and flower
She lets her hair down over the story

On the café terrace
Torrents of rain
Violent wind
The flame in my lighter went out again and again
I couldn’t light my cigarette
The rain came down in torrents
And the wind was violent
With one touch of his finger on the trigger
The soldier launched the missile
Torrents of rain did not put out
The flames in the building on fire
And the violent winds
Carried away rags of flesh I loved
And scattered them far from here

Salt on wound
And water on mud
We are only memories
On the run across time

Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poetry, most recently A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1995-2014 (Norton), and numerous translations from the French and Arabic.

“Each new issue feels like a public report from many individual private spheres.” —Antoine Wilson

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Issue 24



Spring 2016


Fadwa Suleiman left a successful career as an actress in Damascus in 2011 to join the popular democratic uprising. Her first book of poems, When the Moon Is Full (Dar al-Ghawoon), was published in Arabic in Beirut in 2013. She now lives in France.


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