BAALBECK by Etel Adnan

It is a pleasure & an honor for Nomadics blog to publish BAALBECK, a sequence of poems by Etel Adnan translated by Sarah Riggs over the next 4 or 5 days. Below, the opening sections of the poem & a note by Etel Adnan concerning the circumstances of the work.

Etel Adnan & Sarah Riggs by Simone Fattal
Etel Adnan & Sarah Riggs by Simone Fattal

Last year (2015) there was in Aix en Provence and in Baalbeck itself an event concerning the Baalbeck festival of pre-war Lebanon. A few poets were asked to write for the occasion. The roman-era ruins of that place in the Bekaa Valley which is a high plateau of some 1200 meters heighth (more at its Northern end) are extraordinary and I was taken there first when I was 9 years old, and then often, and it made an impression still with me  (it became the seat of a festival from about 1955 and on until the civil war interrupted it … it’s coming back and hopefully will be as remarkable.  — Etel Adnan

B A A L B E C K

Etel Adnan

translated by Sarah Riggs with Etel Adnan

1.

From Orpheus to Mayakovsky
the sun turned around
my head
its mass of gold
and of light,

first divinity
to have visited me
– and for sure
the last –
for which temples
of stone
have risen

It’s among monoliths
and columns
that I understood,
as a child,
that my kingdom would be
made of these rocks
and of their night.

2.

A dryness settled
my throat,

I am not going to
sing.

A temple existed for
real,
its stairs are solid

the gods, not willing
to leave,
danced,
then decided to die…

leaving behind,
even if barbaric,
a sun which we have
loved.

In the sealed obscurity
of the brain
plants grow
and fish swim,
while we believe  seeing
landscapes, and looking  at the
sea.

We will not know if
life is reversible,
but in pain is written
a joy which hurts even
more,

as in the desertification of hearts
memory’s fingerprint
is found.

3.

Around here
rain is made
neither
of water,
nor of angels.

The fields show
the color of
blood

but the sky is closed

the youth
of the single blade of
grass trying to split
this wall
keeps vibrations of
Orpheus,
he, mirror of my
soul.

4.

With bare hands
I knocked on mobile
forces,
arrived at some
likenesses of shades,
all substance having
fled

we live
in waves
and wind

Following the gods,
we have abandoned
an earth
heavier
than bunches of grapes
like we close the
eyelids of the dead.

5

The sea is
far away,
an horizon of
fever agitated
in its sleep

by the dream of its
own splendor.

It’s not there
where I am.

The seasons
contemplate the light’s
confusion in the arid
zones of our
thoughts

riddled
with bullets.

On these stretches,
the mind holds
its breath

like a child
who has lost his
mother.

I’m going to spend
the night stretched on
the heat which they
have kept.

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