[A line of salt like a linen thread is wound to the rocks.]

Ghazal : الجندل الصمّ

فيا لك من ليلٍ كأنّ نجومه
بأمراس كتّان إلى صمّ جندلِ
What a night when the stars seem
Bound to the deaf rocks by cords of linen

(Mu’allaqa of Imru al-Qays)

A line of salt like a linen thread is wound to the rocks.
Wave-break, boys singing, gunfire—make no sound to the rocks.

If God blessed vegetation, fish, birds and beasts,
then humans, did s/he get around to the rocks?

Shout your rage in the din of seaside traffic.
Whisper the thought you thought was so profound to the rocks.

They dug a tunnel to go under the border,
why did it only lead them underground to the rocks?

Doglike, the waves bring the cadaver
of one more boy from a rubber boat who drowned to the rocks.

The spectre of an ancient woman comes striding,
haggard and magnificently gowned, to the rocks.

At ritual’s end, someone is carried,
stark naked or caparisoned and crowned, to the rocks.

Andromeda became a constellation,
but Princess, even the stars tonight are bound to the rocks.

Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen books of poems, including Blazons (Carcanet 2019), A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015) and Names (Norton, 2010), and an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices ( Michigan, 2010). Her eighteen collections of translations from the French include Claire Malroux’s Daybreak (New York Review Books, 2020) and Samira Negrouche’s The Olive Trees’ Jazz ( Pleiades Press, 2020). She received the 2009 American PEN Award for poetry in translation for Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen, the 2010 PEN Voelcker Award and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris.