The Long March

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Malek Haddad
1927 – 1978


I am the final point of a novel that begins
Let us not forget everything above level zero
I sustain my romance intact between my eyes
Then, denying nothing, I set out once again
I am the final point of a novel that begins
No need to distinguish the horizon from the dance
And within my burnous my house survives
I am the final point of a novel that begins
Of my two Saharas I compose my song
I sustain my romance intact between my eyes
I am in the truth the pupil and the lesson

Often I recall having been a shepherd…
Then in my eyes there’s that long-suffering look
Of a fellah who watches in his unbreakable hands
The history of a country where the orange tree will be born
Often I recall having been a shepherd
I have sliced the galette
I have parted the figs
My daughter
I have married well
It has no equal
To the gun
To the task
Than my eldest son
My wife was the finest in the valley.
Among us the word fatherland has a taste of anger
My hand has caressed the heart of palm trees
The handle of my ax opens an epic
And I have seen my grandfather Mokrani
Finger his beads watching eagles pass
Among us the word fatherland possesses a taste of legend

Daddy !
Why have you deprived me
Of fleshly music
Your son
Learning to speak in another tangue
Words that I have known
Since I was a shepherd lad

Ah my God The night so much night in my eyes
Mummy calls herself Ya Ma while I say Mother
I have mislaid my burnous my gun my pen
And I bear a first name falser than my deeds
Ah the night my God but what’s the good of whistling
Fear You’re afraid Fear You’re afraid Fear You’re afraid
Since a man stalks you like some frightful mirror
Your school friends and the streets the jokes
But since I tell you I’m a Frenchman
just look at my clothes my accent my house
I who turn a race into a profession
Saying Tunisian when I mean “tradesman”
I who think of a Jew as some wretched homegrown
soldier? Come on then, my sister wears no veil
And in the Lycee didn’t take all the prizes for french?

Ah my God the night so much night in my eyes

Translation by Robert Fraser

Land of Flame

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker
1888 – 1942


Everything grows intensely in your soil, Algeria!
Trees, flowers, and golden wheat, protected by Ceres,
Juicy fruits, carnal fruits: Fatma, Rachel, Inès,
Zohra the mulatto or the white Marie.

Why don’t I have, like a cantor, a flowery tongue
Aloe to celebrate the olive grove
Where sometimes the shadow of Cervantes prowls
Pirate’s prisoner in ancient Barbary.

Exhaling scents of mint and henna,
Cities of fiery growth and unbridled luxury:
Algiers, Oran, Cirta, overflowing with sap

Open their white or golden arms like a fan
To receive the day. In iridescent prisms
The rocks or the beach are transformed.

At the Lowest Point

We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Mohammed Dib
1920 – 2003


go on into the flames
with a clamor of insects
an indiscernible dust
a shape through blazing

with an enigma that makes you
gesture beneath the barren voice
and going on catch fire
immobile on a ridge

take your place for the vigil
and leave at night in a flood
or in blood like an outcry
beyond the reach of words

Translation by Carol Lettieri and Paul Vangelisti

from Lament Over the Fall of the City of Kairouan


Ibn Rashiq al-Qayrawani
1000 – 1064


Many great men dwelt in that city
their faces shone with pure faith
they worked together to promote religion
and belief in Allah in overt and covert ways.
Many were renowned for their virtue and generosity,
and jealously preserved their respectability.

And when darkness fell, you would see them
deep in prayer like chaste monks
in the garden of Eden, that honorable place
among the beautiful houris and boys.

Thanks to its tribunes, Kairouan
was ranked among the world’s greatest.
She outranked Egypt—that was fair enough—
and left Baghdad well behind.
When the city greatly prospered
and attracted ambitious pioneers,
as she became a place for all virtues,
as well as safety and faith,
time looked at her with envious eyes
and kept many sorrows in store
—till destiny had decided to unleash the unavoidable:
troubles caused by various clans
that belonged to the Banu Hilal.
They massacred the Prophet’s nation
and defied Allah’s punishment during Ramadan.
They violated former treaties and those
under Allah’s protection without keeping their word.
They preferred to deceive their neighbors
and take their women as prisoners of war.
They tortured them in the cruelest manner
and let rancor show through their hearts.
The Muslims were divided and humiliated
at the hands of these unfaithful:
some were tortured or could do nothing,
others were killed or put in prison.
They called for help but no help came,
and when they couldn’t yell or cry anymore,
they gathered all their belongings
and valuables, whether gold, silver,
pearls, rare ornaments, or crockery.
They went out on bare feet, begging Allah
to protect them and overcome their fear.
They fled with their infants, their children,
their widows, and their spouses.
They kept their virgins safe like gazelles
lest their beauty drive the enemy mad—
chaste beauties covered with shawls
like moons shining on willow trees.

Sorrow will never disappear after such calamity
just as the eternal cycle of night and day will never end.
If Mount Thahlan had suffered the tenth of it,
its highest peaks would have crumbled!
All the cities of Iraq mourned her,
as did the villages of Syria, Egypt, and Khorasan.
Affliction and sorrow even reached
the farthest countries of the Sind and Hind,
and the land turned into a desert
from al=Andalus to Halwan.
I saw the stars rise but they did not shine,
nor did sun or moon.
I saw mountains deeply afflicted,
as were all humans and jinns.
Even Earth, because of this heavy burden,
has now a definite lean.
Will the nights, after they had separated us,
bring us together again?
Will they restore the land of Kairouan
and bring the city back to life again
after time had stolen its beauty
and caused bloodshed among rival clans?
It stands now as if it had never known riches
nor ever been a sacred land.
Time has duped its people
and cut off the ties that used to bind them.
Now they are scattered, like Saba’s peoples,
and err about the lands.

Translation by Abdelfetah Chenni

I Swear

We present this work in honor of Berber New Year.

Si Mohand
1848 – 1905


I swear that from Tizi-Wezzu
to the village of Akfadu
no-one will subjugate me

Rather break and die than bend,
rather be cursed
in a country where rulers are but go-betweens

My brow marked out for exile,
I swear that exile is better
than living under the rule of swine.

Translation by Abdenour Bouich