Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine

Translated from the French by Jake Syersak

Closing Statement

once the poem satiates itself on the ivory honey of tarantulas
& the albumen of a bogus star
exploding hopelessly under the coke of my assemblies
once the berbers post-total-fantasia
fling what calabashes they have into the void of rifles
a conspiracy of eagles hatched by the true figure
of discovery & joy
will display my humid fever like april is
milky from almond & torrent

once the widowers stir the ashy heart of the minaret
once the children embrace scorpions by the hook
the prose of exile will have tempered such that it suffices
to snip its umbilical cord from this anxiety of mine
& sever the oars slapping the dorsal spine of my fatigue
to its delirious point

I’m laying you out
little nostalgia-worlds
in the shipwrecking gaze of the dead
still fit
to recite from the chapters of audacious crime
the arachnids’ closing statement


                                 to Aimé Césaire

Negro between the teeth of echoes my intangible stream
listening only to the green of caribbean syllables
as the forefather keeps the banana-tree ablaze
hairdo adjusted to angles of the archipelago
the scum isn’t dead but this asp forthright against the eye
cuts to the quick of african bone
or bouquet of wheat when wildfire comes
someone from inside the bamboo
it’s all over the nostalgia hazy hours of hatred
the soul ends in a blue scourge in the center
screes to death in hyena pores
as the sun is the only script
who cares set the snare or agonize or no longer be
otherwise the nausea of a lost horse
otherwise the open trajectory of whatever bird
derision if suddenly I were to say mustang
so often our legend drones
is this museum so unusual & how awful
God isn’t made by us with dead wood
in a fist we’ve handled considerable dynamite
o my throat slopes to the old path
now I’m part of the roaring laughing stock
of other births where they gloss the length of their necks
with undrinkable fireflies I’m there
boisterous stem & honey by a silence
clarified by the abyss’s intestines
you!—study the escalating celestial body oh its legs
scolopendral my invisible spinal column
die brain die I require poetry
not the azure wherefrom cities spring
not lymphatic eclipses
poetry alone in the heart of a people tapestry
under the virid debris of my conscience
rain still drizzles it’s possible this time an area
appears fuzzy under my leathered skin
the lepers of the subterranean world they’re so so heavy
poetry my liberty my bread of vibrant suns
day after day here I am drawing other flames
lick your shapely toes you bitches sink your teeth
into ineffable poultry my poet-flesh
as monarch you oversee my bistros
kick me into nettles no more brazen than the language of an ass
with your teeth tear open the cloud drown me
in the colic-color of your ancient grape-clusters
but heed this I wear the rags of a rusty age
the chemistries of audacity have wrecked our amber
where I fell like argan trees
taking the pollywogs of sex down with them
steal & strip my wing
the cosmogony of a word
to live & to bruise
the rival the mother pillager
who casts you into this air of carnage
yet invisible you’re here firm & venomous
persuaded of their having poured into your eye your black fever
so night desired I be its water
swimming myself into man deplumed by the fingers of love
thus the stone in softness
was speaking to the ephemeral swimmer
bringing me obstinately
into intrusive water
I take up arms & expel from each bronchial warble
the oxygen that assassinates with too much life

an eddy of rats our sewer our isle
below your incandescent steps
below the dust clouds kicked up by death
below the virgin season to which we’re tied
by the terrible cacti of being man
in the claw-wielding plural of those clingers-on
& those seen long ago in vagabond memory
those christened by other window-sealers of solitude
& those also my photos hoist the hues
toward the sinister sky that breaks apart the heavy portal
of an unopened city like a handful
of coquelicots shatter the icy springs of the wind
like the child of twisted nails & planks
as well as that deposit of red ants tucked under your armpits

& this one
                   the tarantula styled by asthmas
lubricates the perfect instant of this summer’s night
corruptible if it grows a nothing of man
savage if it trembles another tantrum into kneecaps
to make & unmake at one & the same time yet what is it that this
venom desires doing inside my joy
                                                            the other shits on a lawn
recalled in a dream because it’s drunk on communion wafers
it required exaggeration of the tree without following the muscle’s flex
yet a schematic of unsustainable thought
upon which sits totally nude all of humanity
white worms will sprout flowers & idols from the excrement
funeral procession from the avalanches of creation
from the obtuse peak down to its meanderings
the arenas will have a taste of cavalcades
& I’ll be capable of swallowing it the eye of my child
like a life-saving pill the absinthe is too bitter

berber! how to escape such trash
remaining green under abundances of tinder how
to form chain from the unreality they’ve laid across my back
link by link ah-ha there’s that castle of time
Senegal’s trail of slaves & marble
yes berber because of the heart-braid of the thistle
but such wealth & such opprobrium
makes me suicidal each day & each morning
Césaire I am another but hardly
the sun stirs my venules
before there’s memory & here’s me rooting myself
full of lucule & vision-loss
& so I’m told citizen the king who loses his crown
at every corner
                             means the slave couldn’t have shown up at a better time
but our treasure brother is foremost the caribbean sea
& the coral blazing up straight from the mouth of the waves
& the gilded roses of sea & what’s incredulous
all the convulsions of an unwavering & serene love
the only reason for submission
                                                         to thee
                                                                        I hail

Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine was born in 1941 in Tafraout, Morocco, of Berber heritage. Widely regarded as one of the most influential avant-garde intellectuals and writers of the Maghreb region of northern Africa, he is especially renowned for his “guerilla linguistic,” a highly frenetic and aesthetically hybrid literary style, through which he engages the facets of cultural hegemony. Vehemently opposed to the repressive regime of King Hassan II, he was forced into exile in 1965 on account of his radical political views and lived in France until his return to Morocco in 1979. He died in the capital of Rabat on November 18, 1995, the Independence Day of Morocco. These poems are from his mauscript Soleil arachnide, © Editions Gallimard, Paris, 2009.

Jake Syersak is the author of Yield Architecture (forthcoming, Burnside Books 2018) and several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Black Warrior ReviewColorado ReviewVerse DailyOmniverse, and elsewhere. He edits Cloud Rodeo, serves as a contributing editor for Letter Machine Editions, and co-curates the Yumfactory Reading Series in Athens, GA. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona and is currently a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. He is currently at work on a translation of Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s early full-length poetry collection, Soleil arachnide.

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