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 Responses

  1. Mildred says:

    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. June 23, 2010

    […] poets or poems on the Web in English.  So particular thanks to Pierre Joris who translated parts 1, 2, and 3 of “Guardian Shadow” on his blog, Nomadics, earlier this year.  Joris cites Mohammed Dib’s Collected Works (Editions […]

  2. February 12, 2011

    […] Dib’s poem Guardian Shadow, translated by Pierre Joris […]

  3. January 19, 2020

    […] thought of Dib as primarily a poet. A few of his poems, translated by Pierre Joris, are on Joris’s blog, with more on PoemHunter. However, there is no translated […]

  4. July 21, 2020

    […] A few of Dib’s poems, translated by Pierre Joris, are on Joris’s blog […]

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