The death of a sparrow has blackened the snow
But nothing consoled her
Who is the night among all nights ? she asked the owl
But the owl doesn't think, the owl knows
Vénus Khoury-Ghata : «Borderland»
translated by M.H.
Dumb heat, not snow, sheathes Paris in July
and sheathes suburban Washington.
Planes rip through the fabric of a frayed
afternoon torn open
by words no afterwards will clarify.
Knowing what happened, no one will know.
There was a poet, and she had a son.
There was exile, its weight on a day.
There was the heart's ice, its insistent glow.
The death of a sparrow has blackened the snow.
Trope upon silvered trope, of what might a mirror
remind her : copper, black silk , the eloquence
intelligence gives eyes ? Reflected terror
that conscripted all intelligence.
I am a great way off and cannot come nearer.
I do not know what the night or the mirror told her
or the sense of the words she wrote when nothing made sense,
or if they made a sense that seemed clearer and clearer.
The child raised his arms to be lifted, to be held, to hold her,
but nothing consoled her.
Put the morning away in the murk of myth :
not the unthinkable, but Radha's dance
breaking her bangles, imploring the dark god with
metered and musical lamentations,
repeated measures meant to distance death
suggest a redemptive spiral for the soul
(child, child bleeding to death, no second chance)
in the containment of despair and wrath
within the peopled descent of the ritual.
(Who is the night of all nights she asked the owl.)
No dark god was there, and no god of light .
There are women and men, cruel or fallible.
No mild friend picked up the telephone at the right
moment ; some Someone was unavailable.
The morning which paled from an uneventful night
would have been ordinary, except that she chose.
Interrogate the hours, invent some oracle
flying overhead , read fate into its flight.
We think the snow was blackened by dead sparrows,
but the owl doesn't think ; the owl knows.
Published in Magma (UK only)
Issue 15 or Lodestar Quarterly home page