Four Poems from “I Give Thanks to the @” by Souad Labbize, translated from the French (Algeria) by Susanna Lang

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Translator’s note

Very committed to the cause of equality between genders, Algerian-born Souad Labbize writes in the name of all women who choose exile in order to affirm their independence. This sequence of poems from Je rends grâce à l’arobase (I Give Thanks to the @, Les Ecrits 9, 2017) is characteristic of the poet’s work, in that it weaves her ache for those exiled from Palestine with her longing for the beloved.

Grant me asylum
in the timbre of your voice

territory of exile
of the absent/present
invisible on the map
from the Negev to Sinai

fallen from the flag
will they have taken
the crescent with them

is it reasonable
for them to find refuge
in a harmonious chord

between the quarter tones
stream Bedouin shades
searching for their bodies

is it possible that Jafra*
is among them

I love keeping watch             
for the @ of your address                  
a nonchalant snail
coiled between your name
and your virtual home

I know he loves the sea
and drags his sadness
along a vanished pier
of an abandoned port
between Acre and Jaffa

does he dream of another destiny
an oud’s life
suited to his shell

while he recharges
he neglects his job
as an ethereal mailman

*Note: In Palestinian culture a Jafra is a woman from Akka, a symbol of Palestine.

You often visit
each city
where my heart opens
an embassy

The poem gorged with light
the one I haven’t started
mocks my weak will

leaning against the wall
it crosses its legs to wait
near the blackboard
filled with virtuous resolutions

I get ready to go out
it leads the way
with its flashlight

I cross a bridge
it ties my sneaker laces
forces me to admit
the city’s landmarks
are illuminated
by your stopover in my thoughts

I dreamed of you my love
it’s unusual for me to remember
unfinished dreams

a silhouette approached
its features becoming clearer
I begged the dream’s guardian
to allow you time
to arrive


If you are cold
in your house
far from my hands
come near the crackling flames
where your fears blaze

Only an acre  
of your voice
a melodic bar or two
that you could spare
for my exiled worksite
you see
I feel like building
a land of consolation
for the rest of us
specks of dust
disinherited by the light

de nous autres
poussière d’individus
déshérités de la lumière

I’ll climb to the top
of the firebreak
don’t come too quickly
give me time
to admire the vista
while I think of you

The baby amazed
by the play of her fingers
teaches me magic
I learn to contain
in the bowl of my hands
your voice
archipelago of volcanic islands

Yoked to the echoes
of your voice
the church bell on my block
strains to mimic
the sweet call
of a lost minaret

(Editor’s note: The original French was removed for copyright reasons.)


Born in Algeria in 1965, Souad Labbize lived in Germany and Tunisia before moving to Toulouse, France. She has published a novel, J’aurais voulu être un escargot (Seguier 2011and several poetry collections, including Brouillons amoureux (Éditions des Lisières 2018)and most recently Je franchis les barbelés (Éditions Bruno Doucey 2019). The Centre Méditerranéen de Littérature honored this last publication with the 2020 Prix de la Méditerranée de la Poési.

Susanna Lang’s translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone, and she has published translations of poems and essays by Nohad Salameh, Souad Labbize, and Yves Bonnefoy in such journals as World Literature Today, New Directions Publishing, New Poetry in Translation, Transference, and The Literary Review. Her third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017 by Terrapin Books. Her original poems have appeared in such publications as Little Star Journal, Prairie Schooner, december, American Life in Poetry,and The Slowdown. She lives and teaches in Chicago.