Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese poet and novelist. Her most recent book of poems in an English translation is Alphabets of Sands (Carcanet)

Hordes of trees with unpronounceable names poured down on our suburb Hordes of trees with unpronounceable names poured down on our suburb

As the seasons waned Collided with our own trees grown grassy with meditation Club-footed humilis draped in a coat borrowed from the wolf Quercus with its tympanums pierced by vindictive birds Oleaster black with the secretions of cemeteries We would wait for them with sticks, hatchets and bark-eating dogs Our widows pursued them howling The moon dumped its overload of stones and sparks on them They left without having parted the love-furrow of a single rose Without having touched the downy neck of a single honeysuckle Or showed their wounded knees to the healing beech tree They retreated to the river where they emptied their pockets full of beetles That they had intended for us We witnessed their rout through the town’s interstices From shafts of light kept for heat waves Hairy Disheveled And their sooty souls left traces on our laundry The mother’s heart went out to plebian trees To the elm that holds dreams back at hell’s gate To the golden-eyed arbutus Their photos on our walls replaced those of ancestors gone to graze on the mountains Of a brother who died for having written a book with the words of the pomegranate     tree that splashed the doorstep with blood   (Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker)  

May 18, 2011 / Books & the Arts / Vénus Khoury-Ghata