when somebody knocks on my door
it’s God asking for shelter

make yourself at home and recite for me please
a sacred song from your native land
you who live in exile in the West
and the wistful lines of your ancient poem
in what language do you speak to mortals in groves

we’re promised a Garden of Eden high above
where life fills the nave’s flesh with breath
from every evergreen tree

you who dwell on earth: if you still don’t know what’s hidden in roots
or the hunger of innards
take care of your body
as if it were a lab
an artist’s workshop of every moment in time
to show you how life evolved
the myriad tricks of sap and bee
his other name: not the random act but the gift

his acrid flame grabs
the misfits who wriggle like locusts
on grills
continues its round of myrrh
it’s a private war lodged in the bowels
provincial interior towns

the stone is rolled away, the sun has risen
there where the rabble reel and flail
for lack of a branch

failed light!

may my right hand forget me
if I turn a deaf ear to your guttural prayer
sprung from deep beneath the arc
where your solar plexus burns


Translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson

All translated work in this issue is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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