by Fadwa Suleimane, translated from the arabic by Marilyn Hacker

At daybreak
A child climbed up out of the rubble
He looked for his mother
He pushed away the rocks around her
He shook her hard but she didn’t wake up
He called all of his brothers’ and sisters’ names
He turned back to his mother, and he shouted
I won’t trust you anymore after today, Mama
You sang to the doves
That no one would slit their throats.
On his birthday
In the orphanage
He wrote on the wall with a bird’s feather:
I trust my mother
She never learned how grown-ups have fun
She never knew how they colored my brothers and sisters,
Colored her too
Colored everything red
She didn’t yell at them
Because they played at knocking down houses
She didn’t shout in their faces
When they set my swing-set
And Hala’s house on fire
She didn’t scream
When they lined my father up against the wall with the neighbors
And shot crayons from their rifles
That colored their heads all red
Red, Mama
Kept you from shouting
Or blaming anyone
The child who is no longer a child continues
To make doves fly wherever he can
And his heart is red.

Marilyn Hacker

Marilyn Hacker is the author of seventeen poetry books as well as two written in collaboration with Deema K. Shehabi and with Karthika Naïr respectively. She has translated twenty-two books by French and Francophone poets including Samira Negrouche and Vénus Khoury-Ghata. She held the Edward Saïd Chair at the American University of Beirut in 2019-2020. She lives in Paris. Her most recent book is Calligraphies (W.W. Norton, 2023).


Fadwa Suleimane

Fadwa Suleimane was an actor in theatre, film and television in Syria until she joined the uprising for citizens’ rights and regime change in 2011. As a public figure, a member of an Alawite family, and a moving speaker for the revolution, she became quickly well known, too well known to remain in Syria. She came to France as a political refugee in 2012. Her first book of poems, As the Moon Rises, was published in Arabic in 2013, and translated into French by Nabil al-Azan. A second collection, In The Dazzling Darkness, was published in a bilingual Arabic-French edition in 2017. Fadwa Suleimane died of cancer in Paris in 2017.

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