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Salah Boussrif: Poems

[Salah Boussrif. Image from] [Salah Boussrif. Image from]

The Third Book: An Inclination to Sunset

By Salah Boussrif

1. My march will be an inclination

to sunset

[Thus Spoke Zarathustra]

·       When fullness reaches perfection, it appears empty

[The Book of Tao]

The sea was nothing but

a lamp suspended in the air

and language

before the invention of        metaphor

was a bed

embroidered with imagination.

The body thrown in this bed, blazing


between a burning desire and a wave-dizziness

is about to wane.

Who inflamed the temptation of the tongue

and who stoked the ember of this body slumbering in honey

All colors fraternized

and light alone inhabited the distance

With his amorous hands

the poet used to bestow all its losses upon language

and open the windows of existence

on metaphors that resemble nonexistence

….an inclination to sundown

I marched patiently

and effortlessly I was writing things and deleting them

Is this why

“the clear path appears dim”


2.  A God addicted to deletion

Shrouded in gazelle skin


in the past used to write its history

The desert

was a horizon in whose span the eyes freely roamed

Nothing veiled the view everything

was a horizon

Even death became a horizon or

a bamboo stalk rising toward a hollowness named the sky

The tribes were not spared the killing just as

language was not spared metaphors which enclosed it in blood.

·       The tribes did not use to like sheep-herding because grass was a trap and water was the shadow

of a man descending from the beginning of blood

And only the flags

indicated the path of departure

I remember that a historian wrote desecrating the past and opening its doors to all possibilities

he called the desert a cage

he also called the wind the voice of a God addicted to deletion

The earth as he named it

was a ghost’s leaven and deletion’s writing neither water nor fire

were the origin

Rather, winds blowing from an old wound whose existence is inflamed in seduction

and allowed the male to desire the pleasure of the ink to write

the history of the body

with naked desire


3.  The first of temptation

The willows were not readying themselves to replace the palms neither




to become butterflies

The tribes used to leave their trees

and the flags used to hide behind this light which originates from the extreme of the wind

Who leads this madness and who

is this


put the night

in the crack of the day In groups they used to lead

their history and consequently they started erasing the old signs


put on its words and meaning became the history of signs originating from

the end of meaning:

The book is a book and do not go too

far in interpretation

·       Think a little bit! How humankind acquires one meaning!


The poet put his tongue on the opening of the wound and folded language behind its metaphors, disallowing poetry to become speech

resembling all speech


Book Four…

 The Book of Ordeals

I.     The blood of the prophe

·       “My soul is sad to death” [Jesus..]

·       I am innocent of this man's blood”[Pilate]


Quickly ah my friend

you reached my wound, but you showed no pain you did not deliver your fingers to a rising wind or come close to the flapping of wings

close to their wakefulness

Your prayer

was no luxury

or a passing fantasy I remember

that your cherry was a call

and the slumbering butterflies wove their whispers

in the lap of your solitude in your sensitivity

and handed your bread to hands

who hungered due to their excess of generosity1

Was it you who led the blind(man) to the balconies of light and continued spreading sparks in limbs of the sleepers


your hand

the one that greeted me is

the light that

reached my orphanhood


Is this a man or

a bamboo stalk shaken by the wind


You are an expert in the secrets of happiness

You didn’t spill any blood

And –whenever you were plunged in yours visions— you exchanged the blood of the killers

with your wine

An arm’s length away from you

Humans used to look lofty



There is not enough in my hands to illuminate your breaths

I suppose that you

reluctantly shed your tears and that the one who wept

was not you

and that the wind born from your fantasies is the water that sprang on your cheeks

Who then

wore your overcoat and went out

under rain quiver

astonished as


the sky

planted a moon in his heart

or allowed

his soul to cross its fantasies to leave a laugh

that resembles myth

on the forehead of the sun


He came to his home

but the people of his home did not accept him


 -I am

the bread of life

bread descended from heaven

take and eat (this is)

my body

--Ah friend why

did you collect all this


in one hand

and why did

you allocate shade as a road to the blind

had you realized

that blindness is going to become the light of the keen


were you

obsessed with a sky

whose clouds will become a drink

for the sinners


On the chords of an old guitar you inscribed your sadness

since eternity

you vowed the wound to a body

that seduced its illusions

-       How many times did you escape death and how many

plants did you clear

so that the fields quench their solitude you

ah stray child

ah my wounded body

why did you deliver your hands to cold wood and put the soul


distant chambers

Are you

ah my friend

the one who let pigeons fearlessly fly and brought back life to the trees which had lost their breath…

-       How much time do I need to remain tied to a chord

that sings my grief


One drop is enough

to seed the earth

with pomegranate

A Nowhere Homeland

To which path does this bridge lead

did all the crossers escape as they were warily walking to their unknown end

none doubted the enormity of the trap

and none thought that the clock will be the bed of a river that only leads to a sinful estuary

How much time did you need to realize that the sun does not rise by chance

and that night

is a day that wept because of the enormity of what it saw

one version has it that

as you were passing the beginning of life

you practiced watching ceaselessly and you traveled the earth in two isthmuses one

you named noor

with it you lit the routes of the soul and the other

you sheltered

and with it you stitched the cracks of my wounds

at the height of happiness you used to thrive like a seductive ember you dribbled the wind and saved yourself from an inflammation that attacked visions

which wandered in the darkness of their illusions

Wasn’t it you who saw

that darkness is the sister of nonexistence and that this blue sphere

is a spark

that you ignited

with your blood

whenever its candescence


Wherefrom were you bringing the light with which you opened all these windows2

The country did not hide its hatred when you were still plunging into its darkness

Happily you came close

to your death and with rare anxiety you liberated your illusions from horses which ran between the riverbeds of your slumbering river

Who then will defend you against all these stabs

and carry your tongue toward a never-dying light

·       The Pleasure of the Light

Is not all this rain enough to cleanse the air

Your breaths are sweeping

and the sparks springing from your trees

are not enough either to open the soul to the unknown lands of its wound

who expelled you from the ladies’ chambers and who

shared the bread with you when you were hungry and awakened your tongue from all this singing

Do you remember how mills turned in hand when you were on the verge of orphanhood and your eye sockets flooded with a light

which due to its delicacy



 al-Sahrourdi’s Beckonings


I neither drank from a water well nor did my grieves choke

when the universe appeared slumbering

in my laughs

I remember

how pleased were all those who ordered my exposure and all those who supported the desecration of my soul and how I walked joyfully toward my life

as I boast in happiness

I used to walk far away the steps obeying me and the distances

which seemed

more palatable than a collar

freed me

from my fantasies

Illumination was the last light

that allowed me to perceive my own darkness2

I did not explain my secret

and whenever I was plunged in my sorrows

I used to “undress”

some of my breaths

and spread my sparks in the wind 



I used to sprinkle my light in

the darks

of my illuminations

and patiently

I seeded my land

with birds

whose flapping ignited

the light of my day


Ibn Muqla’s Hand

“The precious hand”

Your fingers are expert on the breaths of words

The pen between your hands was a chord or

a dose of perfume which you used to cultivate the grass at the beginning of tremors

The alphabet didn’t forget that

between your fingers it became


with which the words lighted some of my desires

While you heartened paper with your ink you used to cleanse

some of the agonies of the tongue which appeared in the earth’s clouds

is it a marriage

that you are venturing upon of

the embrace of two bodies: which displayed

desire for each other


Was your hand torn from this cloth

and your fingers dilapidated as

if the sky

was not shepherding him

who was inscribing revelation in words have you become air

or did the tongue

behind its mellowness put an end to all possibilities of speech

Nothing required stripping the wind of its blowing

because nothing

was revealing the fierceness of the line or

the scattering of the stones between the cracks of the teeth


The First Vision…


The wind did not wipe my anguish

The chords of my hand still oscillate between two winds

all singing has self-postponed

and the voice has no place to sleep

without fatigue

The only standing wall at the end of history

was the wall of the cage of birds which sang


the beginning of their sorrow

the wind was not helping their flapping nor were they growing as they wished without


The hunters used to dream of thick groves

and of a sky that sprinkles its water

so that their hands do not weaken and the muteness of slumbering forests

 befalls not the grass

The perfume of the sky was insipid because the earth had not yet

spread its scarves

and the sea

was still a lad

nursing from mineral salt

which appeared in the form of a cloud

dispersed by the wind

Who stole the chords from a hand that offered its fingers

to a matchless melody

By the breadth of waves        by what does not cease to be

by the beginning of the soil

and by the last birds coming from nonexistence

I attained my orphanhood

and I was gladdened

by what cannot


to a human


God came and hugged me

and before He went to sleep

He informed me of the last dream that will happen to the Caliph He said


will shake off their feathers where no horizon appears

in the horizon

the wind will appear naked and the treeswill appear as if they lost their breath nothing

will remain as

it used to be because the earth

cannot bear its moans anymore

Continue inhabiting your orphanhood and do not return

to a land

lost in the darkness of its illusions 


1. In the Arabic version "jaa`at min farti nadaawatiha." The literal translation would have been “hands which became hungry because of their excessive humidity.” First of all, we have a synecdoche by using hands to represent a human being. Humidity of one’s hands stands for generosity. Arab poets in the past would usually associate a generous person with the clouds, because as they used to say “water hates height.” The poet is also resorting to intertextuality by recycling a proverbial poetic image from the past.

2. This sentence is very difficult to translate: the literal meaning is "where did you get some of this light that is i your hands which you used to open all these windows. 

[Translated from the Arabic by Brahim El Guabli. You can read the translator’s introduction to his translation project here]

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