Wait and See

We present this work in honor of Moroccan Independence Day.

Tahar Ben Jelloun
b. 1944


A people undone.
Your bread shreds itself ceremonially on mounds of reminiscence under the rain
musical prattle.
Wait and see a little and-you’ll-see-golden-
of-honey-in-your -well-virgins-in-your-
Just wait and see.

Translation by Conor Bracken

from Al-Ishriniyat

We present this work in honor of Green March Day.

Abd al-Rahman al-Fazazi
d. 1230


The Prophet, who dwells in the Garden’s summit,
Most deserving of God’s praise and glory,
Experienced, worthy to guide God’s servants,
The beloved, who knows the secrets of hearts
Leads the messengers from beginning to end
The beautiful dhikr begins and ends on him.
From the signs of the messengers they were ahead.
The most brilliant are those from our Messenger.

Translation by Amir Syed

Horses coming Resurrection

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Revolution Day.

Amal Al Akhdar
21st century


Do not open the windows wide…
Outside… there are things
With no names,
Transcending the space in the air .
The trees bow its length to it,
The sun… shrinks to itself…
It was blinded by its light
She backed up sighing
The dust assumes the forms of humans,
Licking the buildings… the pavement
Ivy climbing…
The small café at the end of the street
Do not open the windows wide…
Let them be closed.
The descents of Tatars are coming
The bells are tolled from afar…
And the sky is growls and rumbles
The windmills…
Hardly stop
Electricity poles on the wall
Crackling and neighing
Horses struck by panic,
And they chose to leave
Do not open the windows wide ..
Your dreams may fall
On the pavement
And the climbing bulldozer may smash you
Or your heavy bodies may fall.
Do not ask about a beloved who did not return
Nor a kid of yours in school
Do not buy morning bread…
Nor Newspaper
Do not greet your neighbor as usual…
Do not fix the clock’s hands
No, no do not open the windows
Hide behind it on oblique chairs
Enjoy polishing an old coat
Or caress the backs of luxurious cats
Or sip evening tea
Or laugh on the impact of an insipid joke
Do not open wide the windows wide…
Swarms of swallows
Kidnap their small bodies,
And flee dripping
The tree shake their roots,
Wishing they would to fly.
But they only swallow their disappointments
And remain a witness of current events
Crackle of imminent thunder
The specters of the death…
Leaving their long slumber
Grumbling… And moaning
As if… horses of resurrection
Are coming

from Hieroglyphs

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Allegiance Day.

Mohammed Bennis
b. 1948


A ghost
You attend to the ruby time
No east will rise in you or west
A niche
Drowned in blue rustle shrouded by the Kingdom
A clay horizon
Dangling like a bunch of grapes
For a hand that drifts away
And dies

A stone
Forgets its master
Was he
Or was he there
A stone above a stone
Rises to watch you
The comer
No one
Is still awake but you

A silence attends to me
And for you my guest
There will be a night of papyri
And a night of
Arriving in hissing scents
The night’s end
And beginning
Are identical
Friezes are becoming one
Under the feet of the river’s dusk
Intoxication echoes resonate inside me
And fade away

Translation by James Kirkup

Cathedral of Death

04-21 El Ouazzani
Hassan El Ouazzani
b. 1970


I’m not concerned with the bloodiest wars of the world
I’m not bound to its decline towards the silliest of its abysses
Battle-fronts, public interests, the peaceful histories
of nations, killers of Jesus Christ, the right wing, its extreme
the north, its nearest side.

Concerned am I
with the primordial matter of darkness, the exiles of clay
descending from the dynasties of fools, the dwellers of the underground halls
where the river is my sleeping place, the seven skies prayer-rugs
to my sinful soul, and women are shadows to some lust,
or the groaning of a fighter dying close to his military equipment,
his hand on his heart
and his eyes bulging
out of his cheeks.

The Athenian boy in person,
the boy climbing the stairs of betrayal, the grandson of Father Kairos,
discovered at once that wisdom is the refuse of the mills of stupidity,
that the horizon is narrower than the gate of Troy,
and that nothing deserves dying for,
far away from the perfume of Venus,
closer to the mirage of victory

He, then, wished
he had extra breath
to wed his burnished sword to fire, and roam
the earth. His guide the astrolabe of desire
and lust his refuge.

And wished
the heart broadened a little
to contain Aphrodite’s splendor
that is close to the borders of extreme drunkenness.

And wished
God gave him the earth as a present so that the islands of language
become his own moons, and he become the Lord. To him
letters and the howdah of meaning bow.
To him the windmills appear.

And when
he realized that death is the chant of the moment
he put fire in his coffin and mounted
the cloud of his exhausted heart.

The Athenian boy in person, the runaway of the Acropolis
The boy whose footsteps I pursue, the ever-travelling boy.
His shadow became a cloud of questions.


Translation by Amina Jamal Eddine and Mohamed Bouya 

Lift Up My Steps

We present this work in honor of the First Day of Passover.

04-15 Freha
Freha Bat Avraham
d. 1756


Lift up my steps, O Lord, my savior,
I’d go to my country with a placid joy;
an ignorant people pursues me now,
and taunts me with a thunderous noise.
Take me, quickly, to a Galilee mountain,
and send your anger across their skies;
there I’ll see your light, my crown,
and say: Now I can die.

Striking the Tent

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Proclamation of Independence.

z 01-11-21
Ibn al-Khabbaza
? – 1239

The pretender yields the crown;
See, his red tent tumbles down
When it sees red Mudar’s hosts
Standing nigh, to prick his boasts.

Tell me, if you can descry:
Who has better right to high
Sovereignty—foreign churls,
Or their lawful Arab earls?

Nay, he was too negligent
Of his duty; so his tent
Wonderfully bit the dust,
And foretold the way he must.

to al-Baghdadi, the pasha of Fez

11-08 Assaraj
Mohammed Ben Brahim Assarraj
1897 – 1955


To extinguish the coals smoldering in his heart
He makes a river spring through his eyelids, flooding his torso.
In fact, there are tears that in their very abundance ease the heart.
Let ours thus flow:
Better than anyone we do appreciate the scope of our misery.
To face such misfortune I turned toward patience,
But patience, itself impatient, abandoned me.
What is there more unbelievable than to see
Shepherds set themselves up as overlords and legislate?

Here’s a “weird one” who’s never had anything but rope as a belt,
An idiot who has ever only led sheep into the mountains,
And now he’s become the master of Fez!
He mistreats and tortures the city’s youthful elite:
In such extremities it is to God alone that one addresses one’s complaint,
From Him alone can deliverance come.
The echo of these calamities has crossed the borders:
Young people who are being sequestered, tortured, humiliated
Though they have committed no crime.
Let this coarse man be told that his whip
Makes ten million Moroccans groan:
There are those among them who keep silent, not knowing how to express their pain;
Others, to the contrary, who’ve had enough and who cry out—
They all suffer the pain that eats them up.
Can you imagine a sick person ignoring his pain?
They have not been subjected… while being subject.
Let’s suppose they’re at fault: their due then is a just
Judgment, one that doesn’t err because of blunders or excess.

Seven Birds

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Green March Day.

11-06 Bennis
Mohammed Bennis
b. 1948


A White Bird

A breath condenses
Even density can be pleasant
Each wall widens its cracks
And retains the call
A height that remains a height
Springs that have gathered the winds of the fields

A Red Bird

It may have travelled the river in one night
The road may have guided it through the upper layers
I ponder the mystery of its redness
Then forget the sky
That has taken it

A Green Bird

There are sleeping feathers before me
Feathers that blast me with the fire of distance
And feathers without a body that bend
And collect
In a point
Between us speech is fluttering

A Blue Bird

So drunk in the evening it’s almost unable to return
It would prefer that departure go on
Without departure
Of light in the pool
Grow longer

A Black Bird

Each thing wants to emulate it
Water in the pots
Words on their birthdays
Caravans across borders
A girl not yet wet with dew

But the thrush
Emulates only
It stays on branches of joy

A Yellow Bird

That window remains open for it
as they sit face to face and
the bird stays because of
an approaching silence until
without even pecking the grains it
soars just as its past did just as
its future will at dawn

A Colorless Bird

Elated it chirps on one of the nights of solitude
Before it flies
Where light unites with vibration
A draft that startles
Its visitor with a wing whose recurrent glitter
Is ever-changing and I can see it from a distance
It flies
So that what I see
Is this thing that resembles nothing distant


Translation by Fady Joudah