Tahar Bekri

Tahar Bekri

Born in 1951, in Gabès (Tunisia) Tahar Bekri is a poet who writes in French and Arabic. He has lived in Paris since 1976 and has published over twenty titles (poetry, essays and art books). Translated into several languages (English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Turkish, among others), his poetry also the subject of academic research.

Currently, he teaches at Université Paris X. His latest publications include: Les Dits du fleuve (Paris, Al Manar, 2009) and Salam Gaza (Tunis, Elyzad, 2010). Bibliography: Tahar Bekri edited by Nejib Redouane (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2003)

Website: tahar.bekri.free.fr

Epic of the thyme of Palestine

In memory of Mahmoud Darwish

I perfumed the hills and plains
Nourished by brilliant light
Accompanied wanderers’ steps
Through the earth’s ancestral rites
All those domes, bell-towers, temples
Offered up for a thousand prayers

That sudden rain which mingled
My scent with the steadfast stones
Alert for gaping rifts
The rocks grasp leaves that I dropped
In the dusk of centuries stretching
Themselves out in history’s pit

Neighbor sea, I loved your murmur
That consoled my trembling, joined
By flutes, rocked by solar olive trees
They came by night with reptilian tanks
Razored treads sheared my sprigs
That held a dream built like a stream

I still see you, children scorched by phosphorus
Ashes blackened by clouds bleached
Of blood and cowardly dust
Beneath skies gashed by cast lead
Hospitals bled from a hundred shells
Schools that are like graveyards

And I don’t forget the path the wind took
To extinguish your genie-less lamps
Who could claim that a rifle was hidden
In flour, or rockets in kitchens
When beds were ripped open on sleeping
Bodies, thresholds smirched with shame

How not to see you, bats
In the blindness of the night
Master boots that march on my summers
Scoured of secular lemon-trees
How not to know you, crows
In the brainless drones overhead

Winter covered by wailing sirens
Houses like graves without stones
Among the dark cries, among ruins
I consoled the stars brusquely awakened
Terrified by your gunpowder trails
My new leaves your arsonists’ martyrs

I tell you this, thyme is to flavor
Olive-oil bread kneaded and baked
On my flames, not to light your fires
Neither rosemary, friend of my cypresses
Nor waters wrenched from their source
Will pardon your memory’s gaps

I tell you this, thyme is for proud
Old roads, it is not for vultures
Thyme is for birds at rest
Freed from their need and their fear
Not to starve out trees and nests
Not to punish mothers and cradles

I defy you, hyenas in helmets
Thyme, even hemmed in by the Wall
Will burst through sea, sky and earth
So many armies for one herb
Still cannot prevent my bestowing
My fragrance on open-armed people

Tahar Bekri
© Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker

From War to War

The sea doesn’t know where all this water comes from
Off desert shores thirsting for so many rivers

A single wing is not enough for the seagull
To salve its wave-burns and wind-burns

All these leaves that fall to the tyranny
Of winter don’t prevent the bird from perching

On the branches free and invincible
His song fed on snow and on sun

What is wrong with the earth that it keeps moaning
Under the rubble the palm tree thunderstruck

After so many nights slashed by lightning bolts
Primroses flattened by hellish boots

I build you up again seasons of veins
Of trees, and the light’s blood

Beyond the borders beyond the walls
If you tremble you stir up my dust

How can we let the child eat
Cakes of clay amidst crocodile tears

Shadowy faces numbers beyond counting
Towers of pride hippopotami heavy in mud

From you I have the green orange’s rage
All those cracks in the wind’s rift

Like a gaping fissure in the cesura
Give me buds instead of all these graveyards

Tahar Bekri
© Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker

For other contributions by Tahar Bekri, please follow the links below:

Photo: Mosa Bidaj
Published with the permission of Tahar Bekri & Marilyn Hacker