Three by Dib

Took the first volume of the Algerian writer Mohammed Dib’s  Collected Works (which consists of the Collected Poems, edited and presented by Habib Tengour — as published in 2007 by Editions de la Différence)  from the shelves this morning, and began to read. Then stopped reading after the opening 3 poems — from the first volume, Ombre Gardienne, originally  published in 1961. Couldn’t resist trying to translate them — as I have said elsewhere, translating is the closest reading we can give a poem. So here they are:

from: Guardian Shadow

Guardian Shadow, 1

Close your doors
women, bitter sleep
will fill your nerves,
water and sand wore
away the trace of your step,
nothing belongs to you.

Far away the few
glimmerings of stars,
opaque, the earth around
the black dwellings
shelter your respite.

Close your doors
I am the guardian:
nothing belongs to you.

Guardian Shadow, 2

But I’ll barely sing
so that your pain not
impinge on your sleep;
Peace to you, mothers, wives,
the blood-drinking tyrant
will be dust in your
winnowing baskets.

I walk on the mountain
where approaching spring
puts scented herbs:

All of you who listen to me,
when dawn softens, I’ll
come and wash your thresholds.

And my songs will stifle
time’s ululations.

Guardian Shadow, 3

Do not ask
if the wind trailing
along the peaks
fans a hearth;

if it is a bonfire
if it is a poor man’s fire
or a sentinel’s signal.

Fabulous women who
close your doors, still
still soaked in night, dream on.

I walk, I walk:
the words I carry
on my tongue make
a strange report.

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7 opinions on “Three by Dib”

  1. Hello Pierre,
    Could you tell me which book of Mohammed contains this poem: “I was then still sustained by some kind of hope, but hope so enclosed in inaccessible places that I now hesitate to call it hope…”

    Thank you!

    1. Perhaps you’ve found it by now, but that quote is in the great, tho sadly very out of print, novel Who Remembers the Sea. Someone besides me should write to NYRB about it

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