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Poems by Anna Gréki, Translated by Marine Cornuet

You Are Present

For Ahmed Inal


Alive more than alive
In the heart of my memory and heart
Like a most secret body
Rising in the sensual universe
Plowed by days and faces and sleep

Into the shape of a man

Alive more than alive
Inside my body in front of my eyes
Although with each step I search
For your one and parallel presence
Elusive rose of persistent

Blossoms my wisdom my trust

Alive more than alive
You are the throbbing happiness
Stirring in the thickness
Of my words, of my movements
In the shape of a glance

In the value of a subtle agreement

Alive more than alive
You are the pure water where I bathe
In the City of Springs
That I do not know
And forever I search your lips

Secret kiss and its pistil

Alive more than alive
With your body glowing
At the four howls of pain
Scattered shred tortured
Bleeding on the orange dirt

Where we were born

Die, rifles and men
Die, evening ripe with horrors
Die, war and peace
And courage and weariness
Die, memory and oblivion
You are alive more than alive

Present

Surfaces


Surface of our bodies with the riled-up scars
Of our mismatched childhoods that I gather here
As I seek you with my lips

On those iridescent paths – surface of our bodies

Surface of our faces so vulnerable
With these secret cuts around the eyes
At the corner of the mouth - Volubilis

and diss bouquets – surface of our faces

Surface of our life together scuffed
By departures and faulted by mad frailties
But covered by the magnetic orb of our blood

Much further than lost skies

Surface shining with goodwill
That will tire me from holding you all
From holding on to you as much as skin

Holds a scent, as well as cherries hold liquor

I love everything in the world that touches you
And what touches you is the whole world
The whole world that hugs me like my skin

And that I feel pulsing underneath each word

Taking Root

For Ahmed Inal


Everything is in order
My loves folded inside my heart
my heart as steady as the horizon
I held the hands of friends, warmth
of seasonal homes. This is how

I burn with pride

Everything is in order
The blue gold of your veins in my gaze
on brooding mountaintops
in this tough air as patient as a lizard
I follow the straight path of nebulae

into the forest that self-devours

You walk inside my eyes so that I can rest
and exhaustion laid bare is harmed by your silence
You make the land buried in my memory sing
when I carve from my chest a thousand years of space
As I go I sow your presence
the anchor of your goodness in the depths of hatred
In your heart is a right of asylum and I make use

of you like I would cut my veins

Everything is in order
No longer can the sun
intoxicate me with snow from another side
My luggage suits me exactly
like skin. And while I keep vigil
night open at the pure flank of Ramadan
in the city heavy with steel my mother
puts away my books that she cannot read

and ages. Everything is in order


Anna Gréki (1931–1966) was an Algerian poet of French descent. Her poetry was deeply influenced by the landscapes of the Aurès Mountains, where she was born, and by the memories and friendships formed there during her childhood. As a young adult, Gréki joined the struggle for Algerian independence as a member of the Algerian Communist Party. She was subsequently arrested, tortured, and incarcerated for her activism. The poems she wrote in prison in 1957–58 were smuggled out and published in her first collection, Algérie, capitale Alger, in 1963 (S.N.E.D), while Gréki was in exile in Tunis. Her second collection, Temps forts (Présence Africaine), was published a few months after Gréki’s death in 1966, and has been recently published in English as The Streets of Algiers and other poems (trans. Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti, Smokestack Books, 2020). A prolific writer and thinker, Gréki wrote many essays on language, power, politics, and the role of the artist in Algeria, and left behind an unfinished novel.

Marine Cornuet is a Brooklyn-based translator and poet. Her translation of French-Algerian poet Anna Gréki’s 1963 collection, Algérie, capitale Alger, is forthcoming with Pinsapo Press and Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative in 2023. Her translation of Kaveh Akbar’s collection Pilgrim Bell into French is forthcoming with Le Castor Astral in the spring of 2023. She holds an MFA from Queens College, CUNY, and is a co-founder of the literary journal Clotheslines.

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