Always, I Open My Heart

In honor of Green March Day, we present this work by one of today’s most famous Moroccan poets.

Abdallah Zrika
b. 1953


I speak, first, from my fingernails, taken from the ocean’s sand, then from the algae of my hair in indigent atmospheres, then from my eyes, from the aluminum

of the sky
And I invite you all now
And my hand is firewood
I was born in an age of revolution
poor, poor, poor
up to the ankles of my feet
I was born barefoot
and sick
and hungry
and angry
until the ocean’s foam was in my mouth
and in my mouth was iron and rock
and words in mourning
and hungry children
and small dogs killed by the cold and rain
and fear
and people with torn clothes, bare feet
and in my hand, teeth of crystal
and anger
and the crying of children
and the ill
and blame
and here I am, angry
I blame the murdered
and I open my heart
I blame those who deserve blame
For the wound in us is deep
the betrayal deep
the murdered among us are hurting.

Before (from The Rising of the Ashes)

In honor of the Moroccan holiday, Revolution Day, we present this work by one of Morocco’s most revolutionary poets.

Tahar Ben Jelloun
b. 1944


a long time ago
I lived in a tree, then in a cemetery.
My tomb was under an oak. Dogs and men pissed on my head. I said nothing. Little
mauve flowers, scentless, grew there.
I had nothing to say.
Today shovels picked me up and threw me in this well.
I pace the abyss.
I descend. I am suspended.
The ashes still smolder. They rise, surround me, then fall again,
grey dust that makes my body a sand-filled hourglass.
I crumble. I am old abandoned rock.
I am sand and time.
I am faceless.
I nourish the land and pour my words into the land’s blood.
I irrigate the tree roots in late spring.
I count the days and the deaths while
men carry their households on their backs.

This body which was once a word will no longer look at the sea and think of Homer.
It did not pass away. It was touched by a flash from the sky crushing speech and breath.
These crystals mixed in the sand are the last words pronounced by these unarmed men.

In this country the dead travel
as statues and flames
They wear eyeglasses
and stretch out their scorched arms for flight.
We say they became invisible
Left to offer the living the years that remained of their lives.
Thus only years litter the desert: a century, more.
Lives for the taking, as jackals gorged on lives tremble to say:
“Death is not fatal just as night is the sun’s shadow.”

Visionary Eulogy

In honor of the Moroccan holiday, Allegiance Day, we present this work by one of Morocco’s great contemporary writers.

Amina El Bakouri
b. 1969



It happens that my soul quivers before your wavelike presence
So in evenings not like these evenings
My mature blossoms start budding…
It happens that towards you
Sweeping nostalgia transports me
So to your lantern-lit boulevards I rush
Seeking, amid daybreak variegations,
My grief-stricken voice…
When it laid for your veins’ itinerary,
Plans from erring poems
And moons


I am no object of desire of yours…
The blades of my soul
Are overladen with racemes of light.
Smeared with the mysterious darkness from the glow of words
My hands confiscate my days
glaring with ink
that flows painfully opaque
on the breast of dreams…
Horror-stricken, I drink at the lofty heights
Whose marine dew blessings surround me
With vows of nothingness
And wild goats of whiteness…
The sky’s fibres testify
To my disobedience
And my disengagement from the sin of original disclosure…
From the pain that lurks
Behind the white sun
And the musical minaret of speech.


Remember I was obedient to your deep kisses
My nights were not only ash
I would gaze at your mysterious face
preoccupied as it was with the stars’ movement
And embellished with strange songs
And poems.
Let me for a while
Comb the night’s chest
With the cooing of words…
I soar as high as the swings of your wild soul
To secretly overview the splendor of distant lands
And light a moon in the universal ink-pot
Let me, from your large, beautiful eyes, extract
The honey of the stars
And sip the nectar of your lisp
Secretly filling the carafe
Like the virgin of the dormant tribes!


Suppose you are a mutilated idea
Floating in the kingdom of Air
Arranged by coincidence
To redeem yourself from hell fire…
Suppose your dreams have, forever, forsaken you
When, all at once you dreamed them
With no prior notice or time limit…
Suppose Lorca offered you
The wild mint of paper
On a furious civil war night
Will the wild mint then
Have the self-same malice of beautiful roses
On the coffin of jasmin?
Suppose Al Khanssa’
Tore up grievously the bosom of her femininty
And the eagles of her anguish fell to pieces as did Sakhr, her brother.
Will the distressed bands of sand
Send forth the same inevitable wailing
When the pigeon coos in tears
mending the patches of pain?


Rarely did I whisper my erotic poems to you…
A single eyelash twitch suffices
To awaken the soul from its slumber…
To distress a flock of sand-grouses in their nests
To open the gate of probability
Towards a mutilated poem
That might wail, but never come…
Or thus whoop the falling nights!
My own night was not enough
As I stared at the same glare fading slowly into
The blossoms of speech…
Perplexed larvae ripped up on the loom of
My own killing letters.
Marble thirst beat me
With a feeble whip.
I aimed thus the spark of nostagia at your secret water…
O disdainful passer-by
Let our words fall like hail
On the jujube trees of time
Let us by means of water
Pay allegiance to the metaphor therein
So that poetry exalts in us…
Let us see the dead sea off towards its own exile
Let us wait a little…
Tell me
Why are poets first to die?


Do not torture me anymore
I do not carry Diogenes’ lamp in daylight
But I may come to you
On the morrow of a dark windy day
To present a succulent laudation
That makes you shake all over
I may, with true intuition, trap you into a dilemma
And stir the fire of your open wakefulness
Or in my transparent boudoir
Shield you from the straits
Of extreme redolence
When the female
Of awesome,
Erring fields
Clothes herself in Sheba’s stars.
Believe me. The glass sheets
And the dew of poetry may tell lies
Amid the uproar of slammed doors.
The dazzle of glass may fool us
Like the body’s intuition
When an illusory vision
Blinds eyesight!
O passer-by
The words’ encounter has long been rare
The heat has fallen
You have long enough deceived my pain
Do not cure me with feverish silence…
The echo of water has reached the shelter of the soul
And this very night, screened by my surmise,
Adorned by my insomnia
Has sailed far away into the distance
I have but on very rare occasions whispered my repulsion.
So tell me
Why does poetry not come smoothly anymore…
Why does it not resemble truth and light anymore?


A fire fiercer than the glow
Of passionate hearts
Erupts volcano-like into the ribs of words
Awakening the ecstacy of quickly receding
I am no inexperienced marine woman
To be fooled by a water poem…
Or am I to blame for feeling thirsty?
So why does the choke betray
The water drinker?
Or am I to blame for profound fascination?
So why does water flow downwards
All the time?


“The only good that looks like gold is… the road”
So said uncle Boulos
Once, one fleeting dawn.
Verses are ablaze on your pernicious head.
Trees now border your long foggy path.
I am not yours through any kind of belonging
And I have but unwillingly
Appointed you a guardian of my solemn pledges.
So… proceed in your visions.
The way of poetry is rather long…
Proceed adventurously… opening your arms to the wind
To the virginity of the land
The road will not mistake you
When it sees you coming far away like a cross or a martyr
The road will not mistake you
The road will not mistake you!


In honor of the Moroccan holiday, Enthronement, we present this work by one of the great Berber poets.

Mririda n’Ait Attik
c. 1900 – c. 1940’s


People called me Mririda, Mririda,
Mririda, the gaile rennet of meadows…
With eyes of gold…
But the rennet’s white chest I do not have
Nor do I have her green tunic.
Yet, like her, I have my ‘zrarit’, my ‘zrarit’
Which reach the sheep-folds
My ‘zrarit’, my ‘zrarit’
Of which people talk in the entire valley
And even on the other sides of the mountains.
My “zrarit” which marvel, which arouse desire…
Because ever since my first steps in the fields,
I slowly took the agile rennet in my hands,
And long pressed her white chest onto mine,
And then onto my maiden lips.
That is how the rennet gave me the marvelous virtue
Of the baraka which makes her sing
A song so clear, so vibrant, so pure
In the Summer nights bathed by the moon,
A song like crystal,
Like the clear noise of an anvil
In the resonant air that precedes rain…
And thanks to the gift that Mririda gave me
They call me: Mririda, Mririda…
He who takes me will feel
My heart beating in his hand
As I often felt under my fingers
The crazy heart-beats of the rennet.
In the nights bathed by the moon
He will call me Mririda, Mririda,
The soft nickname that is so dear to me
For him I will release my sharp ‘zrarit’,
My strident, prolonged ‘zrarit’,
That men admire and women envy,
And such that the valley has never witnessed…


Abderrahman El Majdoub
1506 – 1568


dirty and ugly they saw me there goes an empty head they said
in fact I am more like an open book there’s much useful stuff
inside this head

o my heart I burn you and if you want I will do more
o my heart you shame me because you like who doesn’t
like you.

neither think nor search too much don’t always be
the planets are not fixed and life’s not eternal

don’t play with your best friend’s feelings & if people insult
him, ease his mind
who loves you, love him more but if he betrays you, don’t ever
be his friend again

all I’ve had in life is one goat but I’ve written beautiful
many are fulfilled through God’s favor yet claim those favors as
their own labors

travel and you’ll get to know people and owe obedience to the
the fathead with the pot-belly sell him for a dime

my heart’s between a hammer & an anvil & that damned
blacksmith has no pity
he keeps hammering & when it cools he kindles the fire
with his bellows

my weak heart can’t bear any pain and by God you are
you supported me when I was strong and let me down
when I grew weak

o you who sows the good grain by grain o you who sows
the bad lot by lot
the good multiplies and rises the bad withers and wastes

don’t think of this time’s tightness see how wide time is
in God
difficulties wipe out the weak but men wipe out difficulties

I suggest to you devourer of sheep heads throw those
bones in a well
laugh & play with the people but before all shut your

silence is abundant gold and words destroy good
say nothing if you see something and if they ask say
no, no

o friend, be patient hide your burden
sleep naked on thorns wait for a brighter day

the good old days are gone hard ones are here
who dares speak the truth will have his head cut off

don’t get in the saddle before you bridle and tie strong
think twice before you speak or you’ll live to regret it

I made snow into a bed & covered myself with the wind
I made the moon into a lamp & went to sleep in the
starry night

misery should be hidden away & covered under a veil
cover the wound with the skin & the wound will soon heal

Closing Statement

Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine
1941 – 1995


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

The Stumbling of the Wind

Ahmed Mejjati
1936 – 1995


Snow and silence rest on the coast
The waves are motionless on the sand
And the wind – an unmanned boat.
Remnants of an oar
And a spider.
Who can ignite joy in my eyes?
Who can awaken the giant?
Who dies?
The smell of death in the garden
Mocks the seasons
And you, my girlfriend,
A choke and a tear in the virgin’s eye.
Sounds of footsteps on the debris
Search for the truth
For a dagger, for a protective arm.
Deep down in my wounds
The eagle’s feathers were
A voice and a silence
That yearn for the beats of drums
For a shower of rain
To water its palate,
And the (wrestling) ring
Is a soft cloud
That hovers around the horses’ missteps.
Go back with my remains
My blood did not anticipate its course.
Who awaits the dawn and is impatient to arrive?
Who has clung to the rock of my speculations?
Who has stretched his beak out
Towards my eyes?
Oh robber of the torch
There is clamour in silence.
Pick up the daisies of light
In tenacious obscurity.
We sought silence in caves
For impurities cannot be purged by words
Let’s dive beneath waves and rocks.
Surely there is a flicker of light at the bottom
Turn it into a spark
That rescues the wind
From the chains of silence
And teaches humanity how to die!

On the Border

In honor of Moroccan Independence day, we present a work by one of the nation’s finest living poets.

Hafsa Bekri
b. 1948


Being on the border
on the edge,
on the verge
on the brink
on the brim
on the rim
on the fringe
on the coast
on the bank
of Scotland and
finding an open door

No boundaries
no barriers
no pillar of Hercules to crush
no Rubicon to cross
only a few stoned dwarf Wall
in a dreamlike nature
now veiled in mist
now blooming in the sun


People !
All the Grahams and Bells
the Ogles and the Pringles,
the Armstrongs and the Robsons
the Nixons and the Dixons
the Scotts , and the Elliotts
The Ridleys, and the Beatties

All these and other Reivers,
Once dreaded warriors
Now peaceful farmers or
Joined for ales or else
In Kingsarms Pub
with no arms but
darts to play and jokes to share

I felt tempted
In this land
Teeming with ghosts
To ask Hadrian’s soul
Perhaps present and invisible
In some corner of this pub
Where his fort once stood,
Ask his two thousand year old soul
About people and barriers.

And I could almost sense
A smile on his face
As he would tell me:
“Poets and poetry taught me
History’s ephemeral vanity and
The strength of life over stones
At the self moment I was building

And Hadrian’s soul
Suddenly vanished
As Lawrence in his Scottish kilt
Gave vent to a cry of joy :
He had won the darts game !