Poems from “Barefoot Souls” by Maram al-Masri

Sara

Daughter of Sana
Age 9

 
Why does my father
beat my mother ?
 
She does not know
how to iron his shirts properly.
 
Me, when I am grown up
I will iron the shirts
very well.
 

FAÂdi

Son of Sonia
Age: 7

 
You know, Mother
if the giant comes
during the night
to beat you,
You can come
sleep in my bed.
 
I ate up all my soup
and all my spinach
so that
I can grow up quickly
and protect you.
 

Salma

Son of Leila
Age: 12

 
Why don’t you go to the doctor
and have him give back your smile,
Mother,
your lovely smile?
 

Samir

Son of Magda
Age: 13

 
I do not remember her face,
I was very small when my father
carried me off to my grandmother’s house
far,
far away.
 
My grandmother did not like
the one who had brought me into the world,
with every prayer she would demand that God
would punish her.
 
She would say, hers is the blood of the devil.
she would say, she abandoned you
for the cats to eat you up.
 
Eighteen months old … that’s very young
for a child
to have to defend himself.
 

Clément and Romain

Children of Florence
Age 12 and 9

 
Don’t forget, Mother
to pack me and brother
in your baggage.
 
We won’t annoy you
we’ll behave this time.
 

Chloë

Daughter of Suzanne
Age: 11

 
I have often
seen my father
drag my mother by the hair
into the bathroom.
I’d hide myself
in the cupboard
and wait until he’d calm down.
 
On the wall in the sitting room
there’s a photo of a crocodile.
myself and my brother,
we used to call it
‘Papa’.
 
from II, The Scream, Barefoot Souls
 

VI

 
Look, look
at all the wounds I have received
in your wars.
 
This wound, deep and dark,
I got it at 18,
the first time you injured me.
I bled until I thought I might die,
swore I would never again
get into a fight.
 
But every time you return,
smiling that smile,
promising paradise and eternity,
 
back I come again
without helmet or armour
and you lunge at me with your words,
stabbing as hard as you can,
as if, truly,
you wished me dead.
 
I do not know by what miracle
I survive,
nor by what miracle
I fall back into your arena.
 
Look, look,
this one is still fresh,
still bleeding.
Be gentle, this time …
 
You see,
I cannot bear another wound,
At the very least, do it nicely ..
 

There are Women

 
There are women
who carried you
who offered their blood and their wombs
who brought you into the world
who bathed you
who breastfed you
 
There are women
who cherished you
when you were small
until you grew up,
when you were weak
until you became strong
 
There are women
who desired you
who entwined you in their arms
who welcomed you in their wombs
who gave you their mouths
who gave you to drink of their water
 
There are women
who betrayed you
and there are women who
abandoned you.
 
These poems are © Maram al-Masri

Maram Al-Masri

Maram Al-Masri is from Lattakia in Syria, now settled in Paris. She studied English Literature at Damascus University before starting publishing her poetry in Arab magazines in the 1970s. Today she is considered one of the most renowned and captivating feminine voices of her generation. Besides numerous poems published in literary journals, in several Arab anthologies and in various international anthologies, she has published several collections of poems. Thus far her work has been translated into eight languages. Maram al-Masri has participated in many international festivals of poetry in France and abroad. She has been awarded the “Adonis Prize” of the Lebanese Cultural Forum for the best creative work in Arabic in 1998, the “Premio Citta di Calopezzati” for the section “Poesie de la Mediterranee” and the “Prix d’Automne 2007” of the Societe des gens de letters. Her poetry collections include “Karra humra’ ala bilat abyad” (Red Cherry on the White Floor) and “Undhur Ilayk” (I look at you). (Source: Arc Publications)

Barefoot Souls by Maram Al-Masri (Source: Arc Publications)


“Barefoot Souls” was translated by Theo Dorgan

TheoDorganTheo Dorgan is a poet, novelist, prose writer, documentary screenwriter, editor, translator and broadcaster.

His poetry collections are The Ordinary House of Love (Galway, Salmon Poetry, 1991); Rosa Mundi (Salmon Poetry, 1995); and Sappho’s Daughter (Dublin, wave Train Press 1998). In 2008 Dedalus Press published What This Earth Cost Us, reprinting Dorgan’s first two collections with some amendments. After Greek(Dublin, Dedalus Press, 2010), his most recent collection is Nine Bright Shiners(Dedalus Press 2014). Songs of Earth and Light, his versions from the Slovenian of Barbara Korun, appeared in 2005 (Cork, Southword Editions). In 2015 his translations from the French of the Syrian poet Maral al-Masri, BAREFOOT SOULS, appeared from ARC Publications, UK.

He has also published a selected poems in Italian, La Case ai Margini del Mundo, (Faenza, Moby Dick, 1999), and a Spanish translation of Sappho’s Daughter La Hija de Safo, (Madrid, Poesía Hiperión, 2001). Ellenica, an Italian translation of Greek, appeared in 2011 from Edizioni Kolibris in Italy. (Source: Aosdána)

 

mc_9781910345375Barefoot Souls by Maram al-Masri
Translated by Theo Dorgan
From |  Arc Translations Series

About Barefoot Souls by Maram al-Masri Detailing the lives of Syrian women living in Paris, these poems, capturing the unheard voices of women whose lives are suppressed in unimaginable ways, allow us to explore moments never mentioned in the news reports. Potent and never failing to capture the essence of the feminine experience with a remarkable amount of insight.
978-1910345-37-5 pbk
978-1910345-38-2 hbk
978-1910345-39-9 ebk
120pp
Published September 2015

Arena Interview on Barefoot Souls by Maram al-Masri

 

“Treatise on Uselessness” by Kevin Higgins

Treatise on Uselessness

after Rosita Boland

Throughout my truly enormous life,
I’ve never found a use for
gypsies.

When one decides to spend the night
searching online
for a worse deal
on one’s house insurance,
there’s never
a gypsy about to help.

Or when one advertises a vacancy
for Associate Professor of English at Trinity
there’s hardly ever a gypsy
around to fill it.

Or when the wedding
of an Eritrean goatherd and his beloved
is in crying need of a cruise missile,
there’s never a gypsy available
to press the required buttons
and later tell the inquiry
it was all a terrible
misunderstanding.

Despite millions ingested
by social programmes, we’ve mostly
failed to submerge gypsies
in the internationally agreed system
of an indecent day’s pay
for a decent week’s work.

Yet the state insists
on making gypsies compulsory
for those who’d rather never
have to speak to one.

What practical purpose does it serve
for us to continue to try to absorb
gypsies into what my late Popsicle
-a one time Viceroy of Upper Munster- used
to call society,

when all but a few fanatics know it’s futile
as trying to teach a Latvian cage dancer
how to speak Irish?

© KEVIN HIGGINS

kevin-author-photo-december-2013-1Kevin Higgins facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre and teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. He was a founding co-editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine and is co-organiser of over the edge literary events in Galway City. His first collection of poems The Boy With No Face was published by Salmon in February 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award. His second collection, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in March 2008 by Salmon. His work also features in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (ed roddy lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). Frightening New Furniture, his third collection of poems, was published in 2010 by Salmon Poetry. Kevin has read his work at most of the major literary festivals in Ireland and at arts Council and Culture Ireland supported poetry events in Kansas City, USA (2006), Los Angeles, USA (2007), London, UK (2007), New York, USA (2008), Athens, Greece (2008); St. Louis, USA (2008), Chicago, USA (2009), Denver, USA (2010), Washington D.C (2011), Huntington, West Virginia, USA (2011), Geelong, Australia (2011), Canberra, Australia (2011), St. Louis, USA (2013), Boston, USA (2013) & Amherst, Massachusetts (2013). Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews was published in april 2012 by Salmon. (SALMON)

It Was For This by Kevin Higgins

“Pair Bond” and other poems by Barbara Smith

Gwion’s Birthday

 
Today I bought your birthday presents:
what you wanted and what I wanted
for you: new clothes and an Xbox game.
Back across the stretch of thirteen years
I reach for the time you nearly didn’t make it
past your first: listless, sleeping on the sofa,
an infection deep within your bronchioles,
a third visit to the doctor for a letter
to admit you, a sweating wait outside the room
while they tried to insert a cannulae – twice –
and put in a drip before your isolation
on the fifth floor with a window-whistling view
of the graveyard and our home beyond. It was
two days before your hands reached up to mine.
 
The Angels’ Share (Doghouse Books, 2012)

Achieving the Lotus Gait

 
In winter, the uphill path to Madame Xing’s
is treacherous. I watch for loose
stones among the grey brown gravel
 
and the birds are almost silent
as each step quarries me,
wincing on wooden pattens.
 
Madame unravels yards of stinking cotton
from my feet and her thorough thumbs
knead them from numbness,
 
She honours my feet with warmed water
loosening shedding skin,
trims each bruised nail to the quick.
 
She rebinds each foot in cotton lengths
soaked in herbs and animal blood.
A neat figure-of-eight turns
 
over instep, gathers toes, under foot
and round the heel, each pass tighter
than the last. And then my thoughts
 
cringe homewards, as I totter out under
a brittle moon; my own weight
crushing each foot into the correct shape.
 
Shortlisted Basil Bunting Poetry Competition, 2009
The Angels’ Share (Doghouse Books, 2012)
 

Pair Bond

dedicated to Dolly Parton
 
The talk in the bar lulls a half-time fill:
as I knife scrape the head from another pint,
he hovers, pocket-foothering his change.
 
Steadying for the ask, he addresses
my full frontals, my baby buggy bumpers,
my Brad Pitts, my boulders, my billabongs,
 
my squashy cushions, my soft-focus bristols,
my motherly bosoms, my matronly bulk,
my Mickey and Minnie, my Monica
 
Lewinskis, my Isaac Newtons,
my snow tyres, my speed bumps, my Tweedle Twins,
my milk-makers, my Mobutus, my num-nums,
 
my Pia Zadoras, my Pointer Sisters,
my honkers, my hooters, my hubcaps, my hummers,
my Eartha Kitts, my Eisenhowers,
 
my Gods milk bottles, my Picasso cubes,
my chesticles, my cha-chas, my coconuts,
my dairy pillows, my devil’s dumplings,
 
my objectified orbs, my über-boobs,
my one-parts Lara, my two-parts globe,
my skywards pips, my lift and separate,
 
my airbags, my feeders, my mammy glands,
my Bob and Ray, my big bouncing Buddhas,
my sweater stretchers, my sweet potatoes,
 
my rosaceous rotors, my trusty rivets,
my melliferous melons, my mau-maus,
my tarty, my taut, my pert palookas,
 
my jahoobies, my kicking kawangas,
my agravic gobstoppers, my immodest maids,
my Scooby Snacks, my squished-in shlobes,
 
my cupcakes, my soda breads, my bloomin’ baps,
my brilliant bangers, my brash bazookas,
my windscreen wipers, my Winnebagos,
 
my wopbopaloubop, wopbopalous,
my yahoos, my yazoos and yipping yin-yangs,
my paps, my pips, my pommes-de-terres,
 
my pushed-up, plunged-down, paraded balcony,
my slow reveal, my instant appeal,
my décolletage, my fool’s mirage,
 
and I watch him pay up, steady up and leave.
 
The Angels’ Share (2012, Doghouse) also frequently performed with The Poetry Divas.
Published in Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, 2012.
 

Summiting

 
You must know the end to be convinced
that you can win the end, cool and quiet:
the solemn dome, fine and firm above all
its chasms of ice, its towers and crags,
this thing that all your desire points up to.
Here experience distils the muscle ache
and crystal skies into a bleary memory
of how you gained the top in so many days.
The conquered enemy is but ourselves.
Success means nothing here. Kingdoms of rock,
air, snow, and ice, we hold for just the time
it takes to survey in a slow circle,
soberly astonished by our struggle
to master mountains with our own flesh.
 
Mallory Sonnets, The Angels’ Share, 2012. Doghouse books.
Southword Issue 18, 2010.
 

 

barbara-smithBarbara Smith lives in County Louth, Ireland. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. Her achievements include being shortlisted for the UK Smith/Doorstop Poetry Pamphlet competition 2009, a prize-winner at Scotland’s 2009 Wigtown Poetry Competition, and recipient of the Annie Deeny 2009/10 bursary awarded by the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for Artists and Writers, Ireland. Her first collection, Kairos, was published by Doghouse Books in 2007 and a second followed in 2012, The Angels’ Share. She is a frequent reader with the Poetry Divas, a collective that read at festivals such as Electric Picnic.

from “breath(en) flux ” by Michael McAloran

I

#

.…silence yes/ silenced yes/ as if to ever
having done with it/ stripped solace no/
 
vital lapse in all depth of becoming-un/ as if
because it were unto/ ash unto/
 
no/ pure as never was/ ever was/ given to
yet it cannot/ asks of dust what climb or
other than /
 
dry reach in catascopic/ hence shadow never
vital/
 
all traces then forgotten/ yet given to un-
forgot/ blind edge laughter/ afar/ no/

#

clamours afar/ yet nothing to it/ in banquet
of nothing no not a/

hence shadow’s dissolve in bit night balm/
well-spoken silenced/

of ghost-limbed rapture no/ call cards as if
to/ dissolve yet surface of what to it/

spit in eye of eye of it/ no/ traipse till yet
un-afar a-light unlit light of silhouette dark
what dark/

yet for as if to/ not a sense of all’s retrace/ of
fading nullity/ ever only of it/ spliced no
not ever…

#

…further echo further no/ as if to say that
no/ non further yes/ silenced in stripped
silence of/

rapture suffocate in which a-dream/ not a/
vibrates yes yet lack of sounding all colours
clear/

waste upon waste/ useless forage/ nothing
that ever was/ ever was or if/

what will in-speak derivative of what or
else/ blood can only ever be/ what can be/

unspoken detritus desire demarcate/ dim
light of eyes all dredged/

 

#

speaks yes or no no answer collapse of/

fallen flourish/ being in/ silence in/ yet not
a trace there is yet / silenced/ two three
what can be/

opens up in head of time spent forgotten/
fade of five steps/ back or forth no matter if/

dries eyes with waxen what bodily volatile/
reduction of all/ bind bite what what/

time rotting within skull of gild/ meat
locked to/ breath silencing allwhile…

II
#

…in breathless of/ all suffocate’s desire in
realm/ forgotten closure fissure fissure ice
until/

drag of tilt till shear of open spasm/ flail
naught un-sky/ dressage vortice no/

yet given of until/ reduct blind forage
empty emptily/ walls seep solace rupture
eye/

eclipt drags out all what once was once or
ever other than in if/ ashen dislocate/

resurgence/ resurgence no/ head drowns in
bloody latrine clear glass/

#

ruptures rails in absent sense derail/ cracks
blind all shadow deft until/ light snap
stone/

dirt in trace reduct/ fallen/ haven yes or no/
price of elective/

price of unsung what reach of purpose
strips death cloud from eye/ frozen breath
collapse/

juggernauts too/ two or four/ fore/ of a/ not
a/ resurgence nothing cracks here or ever
unto/ dead head disarm/ rolls dice around
on lacerate of tongue/ spits lest dawn…

#

…expels from out of which/ desire silence
breathless overtures/

oceanic collapse/ drags din wind collision
of/ sun forgotten/ worthless/

in click-clack steel bone drag hilt no/ rots
clap hands/ drained ever/

ever on yet what from purchase present
nothing was whatever was/

cold walls in which to/ collapse un-dread re-
dread/ head in vice of cold colours/
trick of light/

#

blood from out of forage ever-no/ steers eye
unto further no further distance/

screams out from it/ visage no/ warped
bones ever all/ all lies all present and
correct/

bitten white light silence breakage point
was once spoken or was not/ bites again/
rain rain in obsolete pulse bulb/

there is spit/ there is shadowing untold/
light’s corrode/ dead laughter realm/
bruised/ tacit/ stammers once more as if it/
silence silence/ rotting colours abound…

III
#

…in-dreamt capacity/ trades meat for
absent shores/ given less/ shadowed no/

nothing dreamt of furtherance become yet it
cannot/ furtherance of which in else of other
lessened/

meat trade in opulent unsound it trace
nothing/ unsound retrace un-meat of fallen
ash/

of prism pillage traces/ yet drains of/ there
or other/

collapsed purpose unfelt in an un-sky of
shatter-glass abattoir/

.

#

distances that never were unforgotten/ in
stench reek to abound one step shit flow in
veins/

it is cold it is not/ collected from/ wayward
sentence as flies gather in/ if said what once
was never once/

opulence/ circling skulled veins what
matter (the) vultured teeth of it/ scar tissue
un-livid/

naught a closed wound apathetic/ apathetic
stretches boundary tint/

collapse still yet nothing pressed to the
bone’s collision/ unspoken of…

#

…echo erased that never heard was not of a/
design utter violet sheer/ cold cast a bitter
a/
 
longing stretched/ meat solace of which of
eye in-dream/ else collision solace final/
 
redeem non-touch meat cold as ever was
before lapse eye a sleight of hand/
 
nothing to follow yet cannot/
 
etches from out of nothing furtherance
undone resolve forgotten/ rotted meat a
blister here/
 
#
 
solace fracture/ another’s density/tomes
cast dead no sentence in only of ever-like
fettered resound/
 
yet cannot sense/ un-sensed/ a locket/ in-
breath of sarcophagus eye given to fall/
 
long foreign hours never to be proven/ yet
what what longing/ else of none/
 
till dense approximate/ crumbling
measurements/ trace cold dead teeth a sneer
at the unutterable/
 
pressure point of long non-stir/ into utter/
cold meat as ever was before/
before having…

 
from breath(en) flux & © Michael McAloran

Michael Mc Aloran is Belfast born. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, prose poetry, poetic aphorisms and prose, most notably Attributes (Desperanto, NY, 2011), The Non Herein & Of Dead Silences (Lapwing Publications, 2011/ 2013) Of the Nothing Of, The Zero Eye, The Bled Sun, In Damage Seasons (Oneiros Books (U.K)–2013/ 14); Code #4 Texts a collaboration with the Dutch poet, Aad de Gids, was also published in 2014 by Oneiros. He was also the editor/ creator of Bone Orchard Poetry, & edited for Oneiros Books (U.K 2013/ 2014). A further collection, Un-Sight/ Un-Sound (delirium X.) was published by gnOme books (U.S), and In Arena Night is forthcoming from Lapwing Publications. EchoNone & Of Dissipating Traces were also recently released by Oneiros Books. breath(en) flux, a chapbook, was recently released by Hesterglock Press.

“The Aunties” and other poems by Josephine Corcoran

Honeymoon

 
I wouldn’t call it a honeymoon,
those muffled nights in mothballed rooms.
With cake in the boot we pilgrimmed north,
taking a young marriage to old widows,
 
my father’s brothers dead,
their crucifixes still hanging.
In each house we were given the double bed,
my aunties inviting us to fornicate
 
on concave mattresses holding dead men’s
seed. Had we come one week before,
you would have been given nothing
but dusty blankets on a downstairs floor,
 
and I would have sunk, alone and deep,
into the mildewed sponge of a cousin’s bed.
My aunties would have spread
as wide as angels in their marital sheets,
 
their doors ajar, the solemn whispers
of their night-time prayers beating
as sweet as deathbed love-making.
But our wedding vows were said,
 
so we sipped tea on upright chairs
still dimpled from Brylcreemed heads,
and rolled like screws in sideways jars
on shelves in locked-up sheds.
 
   Seven years,
one son, one daughter later,
Jesus has been sent to us.
(The aunts are gone, their houses stripped)
His legs are broken (long marriages skipped,
 
thrown into landfill) and we laugh
when our little children ask about our honeymoon.
I see you dreaming down our garden path
as you hold the broken body in your hands.
 
He was nailed to the Anaglypta. You are picturing
the twist of wire you’ll use to bind his legs;
the nail, the hammer, the spirit level, the pencil
mark the place he’ll eternally outstare us.
 
I love the way our daughter sings
as her finger traces our wedding rings.
 

Dead Sisters

Maria and Elizabeth Brontë, died aged 11 and 10
 
So young to be marooned here,
we spend our pain on travelling
dreams, skating over frozen seas,
following their inky maps,
our boats to Gondal trapped
on battered moors. We straddle
the backs of galloping hares,
fly flat on the wings of marble-
eyed hawks grown dragon-sized,
since in our dreams we are
as tiny as toy soldiers.
We cry for them to carry us
beyond mountains and frog-filled lakes.
 
They shake in their beds.
The travelling box lies waiting.
We tiptoe on lopsided floors,
watch the news from Angria
ripple over them in sleep, whisper
We mustn’t keep you any longer.
 
They have laid out shadows
and attics and mists.
 
We disappear.
 

The Aunties

 
Brewing tea in our kitchen
we snort, remembering you screaming
to your mother we were witches.
Behind her back
we flew to fetch biscuits,
you said. We were trees in the dark
who followed you home,
the lampposts that tiptoed after you
to blind your unclenched eyes.
 
We fed you trifle, persuaded you
we hadn’t eaten your mother,
that shadows were not black blood
against a sunlit wall. You understood
she was drinking wine,
there was no hole in her side
where we’d ripped you from her,
and you knew that knives were for cake
and the crusts of sandwiches.
 
You threw careless waves to your mother,
ran into our house like a spring tide,
the seagulls laughing;
the old tricks had worked again.
 

Gasps and Sighs

 
Is it because
we fell from our nests
before we knew
we had wings?
that we remember
our heads crowned
in pain? our upended
legs? is it because
our wombs are
falling? a lament?
does all this explain
the gasps and sighs
we hear on landings,
through half-opened
doors, when we are
burglars at the top
of the stairs,
imagining ourselves
beating through
rooms, stealing
nothing?
 

Thanks for Not Switching Me Off

 
I’ll have no concept of time
so, no rush, and I may fail to respond
to painful stimuli,
and to sound, but don’t let that stop you
from playing me The Three Degrees
singing When Will I See You Again?
because even though I may be oblivious
to the doctor tipping light in my eyes
from her sterilised torch,
that doesn’t mean I won’t see again
Miss Travis,
Miss FitzSimons
and Mrs Cuthbertson,
or rather, three sixth-form girls on the stage,
done up as them, in gabardine raincoats,
sturdy shoes, clear plastic rain bonnets,
doing the moves, singing
hooo_ooh, haar_aarr,
precious mo_ments!
(The Three Degrees Fahrenheit! came the shout)

 
and wheeled to the daylight
I’ll shake again,
a laughing girl again
in a sea of other laughing girls –
when the future flung open
the world’s windows,
our lives soared in.
 
I’ll fly again with oxygen in my blood –
that was the first time I understood love
when I dared to look at the three of them
on the day of their retirement.
They laughed too,
their rock-hard curls trembling,
tears bright
on their bat-wing glasses.
We never knew
if they liked the carriage clocks,
if they ever set
their hearts ticking.
 

I Remember the Fear of Forgetting

 
I remember the fear of forgetting
the Austro-Hungarian Empire
under the cuffs of my school blouse.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and Sophie, his pregnant wife, are hiding
in my pencil case. The Black Hand,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia
aren’t visible until I creep
my skirt three inches up my thigh
and Sarajevo, 28 June
1914 is folded so small
it’s a blister on the sole of my foot.
 
I take Gavrilo Princip to my lips;
I would rather swallow ink
than hand him over.
 
The Aunties & other poems are © Josephine Corcoran

downloadJosephine Corcoran left school early with few qualifications. She returned to full-time studying when she was 30 which was when she started writing and submitting her work for consideration. She has two BBC Radio 4 credits, for a play and a short story, and one of her plays was produced at the Chelsea Centre Theatre in London. She has been writing poetry seriously since 2010 when she was a runner-up for the Bridport Prize. She has been published or is forthcoming in, among other places, The Rialto, Under the Radar, The Manchester Review, New Walk and Poetry Wales. Her pamphlet The Misplaced House was published by tall-lighthouse in November 2014. She edits the poetry site And Other Poems.