Moncef Ghachem

Moncef Ghachem - photo from Wikipedia

Moncef Ghachem was born in 1946 in Mahdia, an old city on the East cost of Tunisia. His father was a fisherman. Most of his writings are about the sea. He is considered as one of the most French writing poet of Tunisia. He now lives in Sidi Bou Saïd, a famous village close to Tunis.

For more info, please go to: Wikipedia (French)


Meltem Wind

meltem wind in autumn
dawn’s fishing barks on Salacta’s bay
that row as vigils call
and my father’s own boat Cesar
it opens up the dance for the stealthy death blow
against nomad mullets banked in sleep
the south’s mauve recompense
a gift perhaps the dolphins bring
deep into the embowelled screams
lights exploding
the nets like hedge-hogs that spike bruised flesh
the preying raptor boats wing round
towards the wind’s tumefied drift
behind the cork buoys of the steep seine
seeded with agony’s ashen bronzes

whereas from the well’s curbing heart
the waterman fills up an amphora
doubly contemplating
the sea and his donkey’s thin fate
and the flagstones of the café beam bright
with the wealth of the catch and the sea’s messages
to the eldest fisher who smiles
a handsome groom with all the confidence of his wrinkles
sweetness and if I die let them leave me
in the dawned bark off Salacta
among reef crags let them ease me
avid vigil spying the mist banks’ belling forth
against autumn’s emerald waves the meltem

© Translation from French Marc-André WIESMANN

Old Fisherman

between his benumbed and the oar’s hand
tackle runs bait of female cuttle-fish
Dagon slackly sowing vernal saliva
and the cove dubbed Horse Shoe offers the glint of its petals
to the sun
guest of grottoes in rock and lichen
the old fisherman oars his way through echoing laughter
     peals of the sea
who is his queen in the mellow sing-songing
for her he would become a sentinel to the sun’s sculpted tribe
for her on fractious naysayers
who roam in their error the prison-ship city
he would pour the boiling sepias of his dried-up squid eyes

© Translation from French Marc-André WIESMANN


the sardine factory pisses heads and tripes
the boat owner jokes copiously with the son of the high official
my little neighbor comes in with her hamper empty
last night I wrote to her brother the emigrant
the beggar holds back insults between his teeth
the cats copulate in the overturned trash bin
some one has abandoned his hands on an anchor
the gull keeps near the cape
the silence of the fisher poising his hand-thrown falcon-net
in the clinic the young woman needs blood
my best friend is in the graveyard
he is drunk and he cries often

© Translation from French Marc-André WIESMANN


minaret man opens his hands
on the winter awakening of my city
my proud coursers
trope to the south and tacit wind
as if human the female sea withdraws with its shadows
the bird constructs the sky again
for her iridescent hair

© Translation from French Marc-André WIESMANN

Previously published in CELAAN, Vol. 2. No. 3, Spring 2004
Published with the permission of Moncef Ghachem & Marc-André WIESMANN
The Poet Jean-Claude Villain has been most helpful
with the correspondence of Mr. Moncef Ghachem – Thank You!