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The cloud hanging over the valley has been there forever…

by Vénus Khoury-Ghata
Translated from French by
Marilyn Hacker
Issue 18 Online Exclusive

The cloud hanging over the valley has been there forever
Trains come from the coast cross it without stopping
Gloomy travelers would photograph the cemetery but not the children, despite the
little bells they wore on their ankles
Standing on the rooftops
We loosed their names in the air with holiday balloons
We invited them to share the cries of our ears of corn
And touch the mouldy robe of the Saint in her reliquary
We would beg them to carry away in their luggage the wind’s hyena laughter when it
rained on the winter
And rained on the cemetery and the well-preserved smiles of the dead cramped
beneath their windowpane
And the mothers shook out the sheets to drive away stubborn souls and
when they cried for no reason
With the same movements the mothers drove off jackals and God who had no place in
their beehives
Nor in our book whose pages we turned in the other direction than the planet’s
turning.

Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese poet and novelist, resident in France since 1973, author of many collections of poems and novels. She received the Prix Mallarmé in 1987 for Monologue du mort, the Prix Apollinaire in 1980 for Les Ombres et leurs cris, and the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres for Fables pour un people d’argile in 1992. Her Anthologie personnelle, a selection of her previously published and new poems, was published in Paris by Actes Sud in 1997. Her most recent collection, Quelle est la nuit parmi les nuits, was published by Mercure de France in 2004. Her work has been translated into Arabic, Dutch, German, Italian, and Russian, and she was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2000.
Translator
Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015)  Names (Norton, 2010) ,and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003) ,an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices ( Michigan, 2010), and fourteen collections of translations of French and Francophone poets including  Emmanuel Moses, Marie Etienne, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. DiaspoRenga,   a collaborative sequence written with  Deema Shehabi, was published in 2014. Her awards include the Lenore Marshall Prize in 1995 for Winter Numbers , two Lambda Literary Awards, the 2009 American PEN award for poetry in translation, the 2010 PEN Voelcker Award and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris.