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the white-haired child is there, upright in the mire
a son of Adam seeking the orient within
seeing himself in the eyes of the pack
that combs the countryside, spurred on by brass horns

his fortune has no bounds

he pores over matter
which unnerves his world
especially the timid ones striding on ibis legs,
the uncertain, the mute on the towpath to fords

crowds who nod
in front of their dull screens
have nothing for him
but scorpion darts

they swear to place on the chopping block
his ephebic head and his slender neck

a miracle if he’s from this world
it would come from the force of his frailty
a river from Al Kawthar
regaining its strength in adversity’s grip

a torrent that rises, turns into pure azure blue
that winds among the stars
covets in such clear water
the light of its stellar twin


Translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson

Translator’s note: Al Kawthar is the name of a chapter in the Koran and also refers to a river in Paradise.

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

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