7 Poems by Maram Al-Masri translated from the French by Hélène Cardona

I wait for you when I’m awake

I wait for you when I’m awake

I wait for you when I’m asleep

I wait for you when I smile

I wait for you when I weep

I wait for you when I breathe

I wait for you

when I’m not waiting for you

I wait for you like a page in a book

like a long-lasting hunger

I wait for you

like a breast full of milk

I wait for you like a seashore

I wait for you like a festive garment

I wait for you like an unread letter

I wait for you like hope

I wait for you like a hot meal

I wait for you like dawn

I wait for you

like a mother

I talk to him


I talk to him

as to a friend

converse with him

as one would with grown ups

I ask him if he likes my red dress

its length

Would it be better longer?

After putting on my makeup, I ask him

how he finds me

Am I beautiful?

Primping his belly

and his cheeks

with my red lips

overjoys me

while he is busy emptying

the drawer of its spoons

Look at me


Look at me

do you remember me

I’m the one who brought you into the world

who gave you milk

Look at your brothers

I’ve told you so much about them

say hello to them in French

it’s enough

to kiss them

or exchange a smile

They don’t resemble you

you are more brown

but if we look closely

we see you share

the same traits

Let’s go

repeat their names after me

Mathieu, yes Mathieu

Guill … aume

you see it’s not so difficult

to speak

the language of love

Caught in the act


Caught in the act

busy disorganizing

the contents of drawers

and throwing whatever his hands

can reach all over

he runs away

hiding his face, then slowly, gently turns

to observe my reaction

and when he sees a smile

on my lips

he comes back, arms outstretched, implores

and invokes my weakness

then climbs upon me

as if nothing ever happened

Promise me



Promise me

if I close my eyes

you will run into my arms

and brighten

this dark world

Promise me

if I open my eyes

you will stay

Dusk no longer has your eyes


Dusk no longer has your eyes

resting between your eyelids

Dusk no longer has a home

It saunters

in its black robe into my heart

Asleep on my shoulder, dusk

resembles your hair

I would like to nestle there

and inhale your scent

and wake in the morning

damp from your kisses

My dusk no longer has trees

sway in its shadow

since you’ve been gone

Blessed are those who sleep deeply


Blessed are those who sleep deeply

me, I sleep like the guardians of the world

eyes half-closed

like a mother lying with a newborn

in her arms, suckling her milk

her ears attentive to his breathing

Maram Al-Masri was born in Latakia, Syria, and moved to France following the completion of English Literature studies at Damascus University. Her books include Métropoèmes, Je te regarde, Cerise rouge sur un carrelage blanc, Le Rapt, Elle va nue la liberté, Par la fontaine de ma bouche (Bruno Doucey), A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor (Copper Canyon), and the anthologies Femmes poètes du monde arabe and La poésie des femmes kurdes.

Al-Masri’s literary prizes include the Prix d’Automne 2007 de Poésie de la Société des Gens De Lettres, the Adonis Prize, the Premio Citta di Calopezzati, Il Fiore d’Argento, and the Dante Alighieri Prize.
She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones and was appointed Ambassador of the Secours Populaire in France and citoyenne d’honneur of Vendenheim. In 2017, the Maram Al-Masri Prize was created, which rewards poetry and graphic works.

Hélène Cardona’s books include Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves (both Salmon Poetry) and the translations The Abduction (Maram Al-Masri, White Pine Press), Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona, Salmon Poetry), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings (University of Iowa’s WhitmanWeb). She has also translated André Breton, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Aloysius Bertrand, Eric Sarner, René Depestre, Ernest Pépin, Jean-Claude Renard, Nicolas Grenier, Christiane Singer, Lea Nagy, and John Ashbery. Her own work has been translated into 17 languages.

The recipient of over 20 honors & awards, including the Independent Press Award, a Hemingway Grant and an Albertine and FACE Foundation Grant, she holds an MA in American Literature from the Sorbonne, received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, worked as a translator for the Canadian Embassy, and taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University. She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones.

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