Mohammed Dib
from L.A. Trip

Translated by Paul Vangelisti


 

20

Migrant


What he has. Having left.
Being gone elsewhere takes
note of his existence.

And nothing: oaths sworn,
memories, put on guard
to be trampled under foot.

Migrant, one will be
second hand already.
Always going to take note.

Life, a migration
it will be tenth hand.
Or thousandth hand.


21

The Pack


Sleeping hurts
even less.
And for a hundred years
he has shut his eyes.

Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child was full of grace.
Wednesday's
, end of memory.

The roar of silence. And all
around, its chaos. Stirring up
no one but the haggard pack.
In a hurry to see better.

From the face it would have
to the face that it hasn't,
which should come to be seen?

The pack hurrying up saying
with its range of mouths:
Monday's child is fair of face.


25

The Other


Said he's thought about it. Said:
that made him come back
away from the monsters.

Said he has believed it.
And he has shut his eyes.
Said the word impiety.

One is facing an angel
busy looking at you
moonlike, shaven face.

Not believing it
you've taken back the discussion.
All after the beginning.

Mirror without a flaw
Invisible City pushing o!
A sigh of relief.


26

Jessamyn


Brush between your teeth, naked
you'll come out, and begin laughing
about toothpaste. Much commotion.
Remind yourself, Jessamyn.

Bursting out of the bathroom
you will keep sputtering white.
Then just as you appeared,
you'll go back to the bathroom
and to the Heavens begin crying Fred!

Laughing, splashing the mirror
with white stars, and crying out
Fred through your toothpaste.

Simply having cried fredfred.
Not as if it were an appeal.
You simply cried out: Fred!
And I see the day again. That day
I walked into the Biltmore Bar alone
and came out with you on my arm.

But without reminding that
Fred was never my name.
Who, Jessamyn, was Fred?

Or were you crying: friend friend?


56

Games


Them, is the public.
And we, we play out our life
for Them. A public that changes.
But we, not. We the same.
We play out our life for Them.

These shows understood. These laughs.
These looks they have. And which
speaks for Them. while...
We think we play at last!

We play out our life for Them.
And since the end comes
it is surely the end. What were
they for their money? Satisfied?


57

Party


Cooking pot consecrated to the stars
the glasses which we raise then,
we empty. And neither the first no.

Nor the last no.
Any one of us so happy
to live this miracle, this moment.

We happy the full length of the
evening, feeling so pretty good
and not about to go to sleep no.

Not exactly God's own racket!
And it is already morning, nearly,
shadow loose among the trees.

Almost morning on Mt. Washington.
What's about to happen now?
L.A. where are you? Where Invisible City?


81

Country


He carried the country on him,
fell asleep, he hoped well
to reach the bottom of it.

The road finally found again.
Self-confident, he recognized it.
It's all there, says he, all.

So too the people. He also
recognized himself. He carried
the country on him even more.

The road was laid out.
He'd reach the bottom of it
and every point of view.


82

These Calm Things

Did you have to leave?
The children play outside.
They don't stop yelling.

How many girls,
how many boys!

And the people neither eye
nor face to face going up
going down, going up again.

How many people,
how many unhappy fools!

And one staying. One,
that the things looked at,
very calm, in a circle.

How unwise a guy,
how quiet a guy is he!

One, like them. One
in whom a poignant envy
burns to stay calm.

How legless,
how lousy a guy is he!

Devouring isolation,
banana-split lapped up for two.
Remember, Jessa.


83

The Looks


The truth. So close.
So intensely calm.
One doesn't feel oneself to be.

They, are there too They
in a sort of waiting.
They cannot help it.

The sun whispers and,
They scarcely able to
half-open their eyes.

Who speaks of opening up
when the world and oneself
are all wide open!

When without quitting
your place you clear out!
And They frozen in their steps.

And while freezing,
a whisper of sand
wears out their looks.


89

Freeway


Freeway freeway freeway.
Blocks of houses, buildings turn
all eyes. There had been a massacre.
Like cinema in real images.
Real bullets, real deaths.

Fear. And One. And One.
One waits for the word End
to flash across the screen. But
not a screen, not a word. And
One waits for nothing but the word End.

Bodies thrown out a window.
Blood already dry on the ground. Nightmare.
One will not wake up and One.
No camera to film. And One.
No director. But
One will wake up. And this.

You are far away and, and, and
batting your eyelashes.
Freeway freeway freeway. Dragging.
Stopping. One has to see that to be seen.
Drive on. Beware. Better you drive
on. Life has caught its breath.

Life. Don't mind. From his window
a guy filmed it all. Don't worry and,
tonight, in front of the television.


93

Cinema


The character, there on a Hollywood
plateau OK he looks a lot like me.
OK, he expresses his momentary joy:
he hasn't had to rehearse his role.

He has his real face for a mask.
No stage-fright. No trouble. Still,
says he, I enjoy myself like a jack.
I play the part, bet ten to one.

A black boy ten to twelve years old.
And I terrify people in silence
without the smallest knife in my hand.
Women see themselves already ravished.

I've taken on his features to survive.
And from me to the kid, spotlights
have furnished only wastelands.


94

As Far From


Getting used to one thing,
to another. Getting used to.
How much time one uses!

But a thing using
time for the devil's if
it itself seems to be thinking.

And what will it gain?
There's nothing but him there, him
with his shadowy breath.

He then standing first
whom life embarrasses
supernumerary among them.

Facing up to them in private.
Garden, pedestal, chairs.
TV and refrigerator inside.


95

The Reason Elsewhere


Whatever walks with arm in fist.
It's the city of movies. But he.
He is not tempted. Not here.

He, if everything breaths security.
Each thing in its blond light.
Why? There isn't any reason.

He, in everything having confidence.
How he parcels out at the end
that which he values more dear than life.

Immobile orbits of the day speak
of images that you hide from him and,
sometimes display among the leaves.


96

Solitude


His solitude comes from them all
who don't live as they do
with only their portable in hand.

And they are even more alone
near to one another. Alone
and who let themselves live alone.

But he knows one. One,
she who took no notice. She's aware
Jessamyn, she finds that silly.

Haggling upon that for her
was not dignified. She cried: no
that's not dignified! For anybody!

And exactly occupies the place
that they leave empty. But who,
at her side, makes place for her?

.


97

Too Human


Playing the hand without you,
existing without you: not them.
The luck of having you.

What reaches you, alien
says he. The people, their country.
You make them happy.

They could not be them.
They only marvelous,
what luck, and you just
perfect, dressed in light.

For certain, you save them
from guards without bodies
these guards in goose step
who fall into step with them.

New world so new
that you don't know if you like it.
But where, if that reaches you
it suits you to be human.

And as dressed in light
it suits you better to be
in your human skin.