Venus Khoury-GhataFuneral

The first day after his death
she folded up her mirrors
put a slipcover on the spider web
then tied up the bed which was flapping its wings to take off

The second day after his death
she filled up her pockets with wood chips
threw salt over the shoulder of her house
and went off with a tree under each arm

The third day after his death
she swore at the pigeons lined up along her tears
bit into a grape which scattered its down in her throat
then called out till sunset to the man gone barefoot
into the summer pasture in the cloudy mountains

The fourth day
a herd of buffalo barged into her bedroom
demanding the hunter who spoke their dialect
she shouldered her cry
shot off a round
which pierced the ceiling of her sleep

The fifth day
shoe-soles of blood imprinted themselves on her doorstep
she followed them to that ditch where everything smells of boned

The sixth day after his death
she painted her face with earth
attacked the peaceful shadows of passers-by
slit the throats of trees
their colorless blood evaporated when it touched her hands

The seventh day
stringy men sprouted in her garden
she mistook them for poplars
bit the armpits of their branches
and lengthily vomited wood-chips

The eighth day
the sea whinnied at her door
she washed her belly's embankments
then called down to the river's mouth
where men clashed together like pebbles

The ninth day
she dried her tears on the roof between the basil and the budding
gazed at herself in stones
found cracks in her eyes like those in a church's stained glass

The tenth day
he surged up out of her palm
sat down on her fingernail
demanded her usual words to drink and the almond odor of her
He swallowed them without pleasure
on his journey he'd lost the taste for tortured water

Venus Khoury-Ghata's picture

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a prolific writer of fiction as well as poetry, she made a conscious choice of French as her language of expression: she could have written in Arabic, as does her novelist/journalist sister who remained in Beirut. She translates contemporary poetry from Arabic, notably of the renowned Syro-Lebanese poet Adonis, and the Arabic language often seems to speak through her French, in the elaborate, pithy figurative language in which she delights, in the landscapes and seasons through which her poems’ protagonists (hers are poems, often sequences, with protagonists) move. Audré Lorde’s term “biomythography” is often applicable to Khoury-Ghata’s poetry, as she makes larger-than-life, sometimes tragic and often wryly humorous poem-narratives incorporating her family’s, her region’s and her country’s history.

Last updated September 02, 2011