One hundred and eighty degrees

… glissement de langage …
… language slips …

One hundred and eighty degrees

1.

Succumbing to the west
those rails carry you
beyond the hour of meeting
of arrival

You timeshift to a place of remembrance
where actions become metaphor
and your language slips to
silent

And through waiting eyes
you rediscover the mountain
you look out from the Tessala       place
vision dizzying

2.

You discourse with the past
with what remains to be healed
of the mutilated oak

Hobbled movements
stuttering actions polish
its surface
to live

Fingers’ ridges
caress each wound
slowdive into
unmended
memory

3.

The sun’s last resting place
in the shadow of the wall
sees its morning appointment

Obsessively go back to the source
“worrying the carcase of an old song”
for what’s to come

Those same fingers
that claw their way
the rails that hurtle towards
the cornered earth
the line of fire
the wait that is too long

4.

You neither cry nor cry out
you’re disciplined
doubt re-emerges

5.

You don’t celebrate
that which happens
that which is coming
at the hour of destiny
it’s one hundred and eighty degrees
worked at together.

 

À cent quatre vingt degrés

1.

Succomber à l’appel de l’ouest
à ces rails qui te portent
débordent l’heure
de la rencontre

Tu arrives dans le lieu du souvenir
où l’acte devient métaphore
glissement de langage
silence

Par les yeux qui t’ont attendu
redécouvrir la montagne
par de-là le Tessala      point
de vue détourné

2.

Tu parles au passé
de ce qu’il reste à colmater
sur le chêne que l’on maltraite

Gestes ancrés répétés
balbutiements de notes crochetées
sur la surface à polir
à vivre

Centres digitaux –
blessures
tu articules chaque courbure
et plonges lentement
dans la mémoire
qui ne se raccommode pas

3.

À l’ombre du mur
dernière demeure du soleil
rendez-vous matinal

Poursuite      rituel
de l’histoire à venir
de la matrice retournée

Ce sont ces mêmes doigts
qui étreignent le chemin
les rails qui s’enflamment
le carré de terre
l’angle de tir
l’attente époumonée

4.

Tu ne dis pas
l’ordre des choses
la résurgence du doute

5.

Tu ne célèbres pas
ce qui passe
ce qui vient
tu entres dans le silence
à heure nommée
c’est à cent quatre vingt degrés
que tu te conjugues.

Sidi Bel Abbès – Alger, le 8 février 2010 In « Six arbres de fortune autour de ma baignoire »

Original poem, ‘À cent quatre vingt degrés’, ©Samira Negrouche 2010, reproduced with the author’s permission
English adaptation ©Susan Walton 2019

In advance of International Translation Day, which is 30 September, Wales Literature Exchange, Literature Across Frontiers and Wales PEN Cymru held a public talk in Aberystwyth by Syrian-Kurdish poet and translator Golan Haji and the Francophone Algerian writer and poet Samira Negrouche. I attended, and worked on this poem with Samira and tutor Zoë Skoulding in the translation workshop that followed the talk. 

The quote within my version is from ‘Welsh Landscape’ by R. S. Thomas; you can hear R. S. himself reading ‘Welsh Landscape’ here.

Samira’s explanation of the idea behind ‘One hundred and eighty degrees’ sparked this, another ‘poem after poem’ like the ones I’d written on the Tŷ Newydd course.

Image by Jori Samonen from Pixabay.

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