from Hieroglyphs

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

Mohammed Bennis
Moroccan
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
Eternity
Dangling like a bunch of grapes
For a hand that drifts away
And dies

A stone
Forgets its master
Was he
Here
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
Ageless
Distances
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
Moroccan
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
Moroccan
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
Moroccan
? – 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
Moroccan
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
Moroccan
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
There

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
Reflections
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
Itself
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

Maxims

08-22 Ajiba
Ahmad Ibn Ajiba
Moroccan
1747 – 1809

 

If one did not stop in the shadows of things,
the heart would be illuminated by the sun of gnosis.

If it were not for shackles and obstacles,
the suns of realities would be seen to shine.

If there were neither individual will nor free will,
the shadow of otherness would withdraw from the heart.

If there were not passions and desires,
aspirations would become real in less than the wink of an eye.

If there were not bad tendencies and defects,
invisible secrets would make themselves manifest.

Without the struggle with oneself,
the secret of the elect would not appear.

Without the company of true men,
no one knows how to distinguish imperfection from perfection.

Without the company of the great,
the hearts and their depths cannot be purified.

Without the service of true men,
no one can reach the degrees of perfection.

 

Translation by David Streight

The City and the Country

06-24 Al Yusi
Al-Yusi
Moroccan
1631 – 1691

 

Man resorts to the urban mode of living to enjoy commerce and industry,
and all the other techniques his system of living can accommodate,
and also to gain mutual aid, and in view of religious or secular advantages.
In general, all of this can only be achieved by the gathering of many people
likely to furnish the markets, each trade, art, technique, or activity
lending one or more specialists. Now, these conditions are not present
inside a single family, or even inside a single tribe.
They result from the variety of the mix and the size of the mass.
This is so for two reasons. First, because such is the opinion of the collectivity
that takes on those needs. And then, because natural law does not want
a small group to keep the exclusivity of knowledge, or have sole use and possession
of religious or secular advantages, or free itself from other creaturely characteristics
so as to constitute an order proper and useful to itself,
by excluding any consideration of the others.
To the contrary, in His solicitude and wisdom,
God has widely distributed qualifications and advantages among the humans.
Thus it is that one finds a savant among such and such a group, a poet among another,
in yet another an artisan or a merchant, in such manner that mutual aid
can be complete and that everyone can participate in God’s beneficence
by taking on a specific task.

 

Translation by Pierre Joris