Venus Khoury-Ghata
  • Venus Khoury-Ghata
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Our cries, she used to say

Would scratch the moon’s windowpanes

And scrape the corners of tombstones which milked the moon

My mother set the long slope of her back against us

to interrogate the walls’ dampness

decipher saltpeter’s crumbling alphabet

translate the symbols carved on the underside of the city

which she only knew in profile

since she never ventured farther than her shopping bag

rarely crossing the uncertain borders of her lamp

city which sent us its rejected rains

and sometimes a wheezy snow which hooked its flakes into the

pomegranate-tree’s ears

The planet must be cleaned up

God must be cleaned up!

My mother cried, tying her apron.

– Venus Khoury-Ghata (trans. Marilyn Hacker)

Venus Khoury-Ghata (b. 1937) is a Lebanese poet who writes in Arabic and French. Her work often explores the tension between Western and Eastern culture. In 1959, she was named Miss Beirut and became the Arabic translator of Europe magazine. This award-winning poet has been living in Paris since 1972 and in addition to her poetic output she has written a number of novels and essays.

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