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This poem is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

Eight Poems (translated by Marilyn Hacker) Vénus Khoury-Ghata
If one moth left the lamp the evening turned to night
the mother put us to bed head-to-foot with trees the same age as ourselves
a smell of snow and crowding bleached the fire
on the walls the mute alphabet of the flames' vibrations
the mother's skirt wiped away the soot of errors the elm tree's gestures above our sleep
a heated discussion with the stove when it turned us into logs or matches
taking the neighbours as witnesses
the mother scrubbed our faces to dilute the colour
bought us pink candies goldfish the gold of coffee-pots
small consolation her white whispering against a downy
neck she said she had left when it was the road that walked

You count your life out by the books you've read
in what currency will you pay the walls for their insomnia and their inability to rise before the house
you bury the characters who die while you are reading between two pages
you settle down in a younger book
stretch out like a pharaoh along its lines

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