To translate, would mean engaging an electrical circuit in his brain, bypassing his heart.
– Luc Sante
Mannerisms in language
slashes above A’s, marks below long Y’s
when reading Arabic these are not printed
this is how you knew that you would leave before I did
letter and sound
from the back of the throat
force and muscle spit and saliva and tongue against teeth.
The difference is a minute tongue induced difference
When they ask where you come from, tell them:
Don’t believe in origins. Authenticity died with Colonialism.
Find a worn Arabic phrase book, practice saying Ghorba.
a kind of home, outside of language
Ghorba: Gha is a fricative sound.
Even if your mouth is closed (you are a mouthpiece)
Where are we in the legacy of crusaders?
(make sense of it all in translation)
First, we had to learn each other’s languages.
This was the longest, most loving trial.
Then we undid our own.
French, all is a run on.
Arabic, codes, departure
encounter in transition
if authority then authentic, the I returns.
Collective, pronoun as mispronunciation
of proper name, translation demands
greater knowledge of the self, a kind of ort.
Ornamentation, a third dimension
for example, bolts, thunder, underwater god
holds the silver screws in place.
Narration, voice again from below
instructions arrive in apparitions
the motivation is in the tongues.
Fur meaning close to cypress
but not quite that, rows of
narrow trunks that would not
allow anything between them
a pink light on the needles of pines
softness in hundreds of small pricks
space accounted for by trees
mattar (rain) + mattar (airport)
sound the same, if mispronounced
What is the matter?
ma – fee- shee (nothing-there-is)
“Mama, will they take pictures of my whole body?”
“No honey, just the heart.”
A city is only as good as its satellite dishes
and Yo Te Amo is a big big word
I tell you as a seal moves slowly towards us
slick mass of muscle and a cartoon smile
on the beach where buildings recede
behind chlorinated pools
we are famished, eat sambousek and tabouli
you tear the lettuce leaves, give me the cœur
say, she who is heart will fight.
Youmna Chlala’s poems are excerpted from her forthcoming book The Paper Camera (Litmus Press, 2018).
Image Credits: Youmna Chlala