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This poem is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

Coffee, No Sugar trans. Marilyn Hacker Samira Negrouche
translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker


The only freedom, the only unqualified state of freedom I’ve experienced, I attained in poetry, in its tears and in the brightness of a few beings come toward me from three elsewheres, love’s brightness multiplying me.
                                                                                          – René Char, ‘Praise of a Suspect Woman’




There are pages with no writing on them that go across you in the middle of the night pages no editor waits for that are the road towards an imaginary book you watch moving further away as time passes you would prefer to think it was in your computer’s dead memory forever.

*


I like to drink coffee with a cloud of cream not true I like coffee with nothing no sugar I only like the hazy cloud of dawn that I catch out before sleeping it slides in and silently fills the hills’ hollow I like that thread of cream I cross from breast to nipple.

*


She served me dubious water in an earth-coloured bowl she said I’ve written a novel but the floppy disk stopped working she said look at my field of olive trees I’ve always dreamed of having an orchard I go down the three steps I look into the distance a few weeds burnt by the sun a lemon tree surrounded by concrete like a blind pillar I said your olive orchard is beautiful get another brand of floppy disc.

*


One two I count the drops falling from the sky onto a rag of plastic lying insolently on the balcony three four every thought only worth driving away when nothing comes not desire or sleep out of the corner of my eye I search for a cigarette and I don’t even smoke.

*


Rue Didouche Mourad the two men come forward they say we’re going to walk right to the end till we become kids again till the twenty-third century I say poets are crazy and just as well these two exist we’ll ride camels they say right into the desert while waiting I must translate give substance to the bends and turns borrowed from me.

*


Cats don’t need you to whisper in their ears they don’t circle round the food bowls they park themselves patiently then exasperatedly on the messy desk they curl up adroitly on their centres of gravity at just the right distance from the radiator you haven’t lifted a foot before they know whether you’re just fidgety or going out.

*


That hand trembling again as it tentatively presses the banal ballpoint on a crossword puzzle grid the piano stays closed and dusty the poet a timid shadow on a dilapidated armchair facing the extinguished lamp of a sleeping mosque dreams of day that will break without her.
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