TWO POEMS by Abdourahman Waberi trans. Nancy Naomi Carlson

/ / ISSUE 27, Translation

Sahel! Sa(y) Hel(lo)

Mother earth
Earth mother
We have fallen to earth 
The man from Galilee keeps mum
A surge in perils, tsunamis

The gods are seeing red
The Sahel rises in you, in me
The Red Sea boils in you, in me
Nunavut is melting in you, in me
No taller than a pygmy, Annapurna
Grazes the asphalt head down
Ashamed and obstinate snail

The earth the sea
Earth mother
The world is dying
The man from Galilee awakens
His lips come alive
Attempt to surmount ramparts
The profound prayer erupts from the earth
To place a bit of green
Onto our stony hearts

In India an old legend persists
It says the man from Galilee escaped crucifixion
And spent his last seven years in Kashmir
Outside my mouth my words are already dead
Memory’s a graveyard
The lute player bursts into lament

He sings of the wandering caravan driver who didn’t 
Bring enough food for his journey
Not one voice answered his wailing
The seed of his chant grew old wrinkles 
Before you could say
He was there, he was gone.

What remains of our oldest forebears the reptiles
Who stretched themselves out to escape the primordial silt
Some folds, some features legible on the retina brain
We’ve been in on this for ages but don’t breathe a word


Every Being Is Unique

I’m a sponge
And I gorge myself on spring
Wherever I go my eyes catch the inhalation
of daffodils

Heaven is on earth and nowhere else
Through strange reasoning we refuse
to welcome it
My legs insist that I sit

You’re getting too old, son
Settle down here and write
Name the dawn once again
Jot down in your notepad 
The freshly fallen stars
Sketch the jowls of love on your sweetheart’s

Inscribe in your notebook these expressions
living soul
wandering time
without any fuss
skin of light 
in lucidity there is light (lux)
four small pieces of bread
make a meal

The sun opens the inkwell to the day
The light steps over the same threshold every time
Shaking the edifice of night

The cock’s crow
The dawn’s smile
The mischievous grain of sand 
That inexorably topples the big hourglass

As a child one sometimes confides
Their last requests on the spot
Promising to be
The faithful shadow of the blossoming almond tree

Every being is unique
In search of their epic word


Nancy Naomi Carlson’s translation of Khal Torabully’s Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude (Seagull) won the 2022 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Her second full-length poetry collection, as well as Delicates, her co-translation of Wendy Guerra, were noted in The New York Times. She serves as the Translations Editor for On the Seawall.





TWO POEMS by Zuleyha Ozturk Lasky




TWO POEMS by Sophia Terazawa


TWO POEMS by Kuhu Joshi




TWO POEMS by Daniele Pantano


TWO POEMS by Lucas Jorgensen





DOG by Jade Song





ASUNCION FEVER by Beverly Burch





A FLOWER THAT REFUSES TO BE POETRY by Kim Hyesoon trans. Cindy Juyoung Ok


TWO POEMS by Abdourahman Waberi trans. Nancy Naomi Carlson


(JANUARY) by Hanna Riisager trans. Kristina Anderson Bicher


THREE POEMS by Nadja Küchenmeister trans. Aimee Chor


AN EXCERPT from YOU by Chantal Neveu trans. Erín Moure


AROUND THE FIRE by Gloria Susana Esquivel trans. Joel Streicker


INVITATION TO END by Faris Kuseyri trans. Patrick Sykes