Ashur Etwebi: “Suns on a Stone”

As Libya frees herself, here is a poem  by Libyan poet Ashur Etwebi, who said (in 2008): “An active world of literature and poetry has developed in Libya over the past thirty years. Little is known about this in Europe because to the West, Libya did not exist on the world map until recently.” Time has come to change this.


by the sea
by the high hill
by the stoolie taxi driver
by the old woman who lost her son in the Iraq war
by Sawsanah the agreeable divorcee
by a wall that grows larger day by day
by a moon that doesn’t leave the sky
by me the foreign musician
by God,
my house.


five suns on one stone, five roads that lead to her heart, five wings for
the kite, five ladders to the house of the Lady, five spices for his
Excellency the cook, five seasons for the lazy gardner.
only one reverence for earth, one heart-break for the sky
nothing for me, nothing for you.
for us two


in front of the camera life flows tirelessly
the darkness behind the women
and the eloquent silence
below Them someone dead
and the remains of cooked veal
above Them a heaven
opening the door of its bedroom
and warm and lavish sweat, flowing from the eyes of a wingless white/black bird

Between their hands a ring and a sieve
a large and curved elephant’s tusk
a cold body and a river without pulse
a stale loaf of break and sad mutterings

my foot neither touched the bottom of the sea
nor did it come to rest on dry sand

neither by hunger
nor through a bout of madness
nor through fear
nor through joy
nor through faith in something obscure.

in front of the camera this one stands upright in the lit space
this other one finds only shadow but smiles and puts his hand behind his back to better show the magnanimity of his gaze as his head turns toward the light
this one slowly opens his eyes so that dreams not disappear too fast from his head
this one tightens his fingers and bends his knees slightly for the wall to absorb a part of his tallness
and this one recites the sura right from the starts and counts the glasses on the coffee table

in front of the camera life flows tirelessly


her hair, waves of an ocean churned up by winter
her dress drifting on the sand, unbridled dance of dragonflies
the red silk belt opens vast and moist on the gate of desire.

with her soft hands she has rolled out the dough on the ancient roman marble

the dream was still moist, strong enough to let the tremors filter through her body. she has not forgotten to put rouge on her cheeks, to button her corsage so as to leave her neck alone, white and haughty.


he set the flask down on the small carpet
“olive oil from castile” he said
then he disappeared with the sun behind the high


a wooden pole, upright, tall, without wire or electricity.

sometimes decrepit eagles come to rest on it or sparrows drawn to the south by earth’s magnetism. sometimes it listens from on high to the beduins’ stories of the town, of henna and hot hamburgers. when the noon sun slows down its course as it passes by it doesn’t pay it any attention and lets it stare into emptiness without opening the eyes.
it is a romantic wooden pole.

at night its gaze follows living beings dragging themselves to the crest of the dune and spies on the naked woman and the naked man.

alone on the vast steppe it spins the desert sands above the shoulders of the wind.

translated from Arabic by Samira Hassan ben Ammou & Pierre Joris

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2 Responses

  1. Lily says:

    These poems are alive! thank you for their breath.

  2. Poo says:

    The time has come, indeed.

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