The War of Memory

Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Hacker


Call me, O Unknown, in all your amazing voices.
Give me your rescued boats.
My heart is their small sea
maddened with love for you.


If I had lovers, I would call to them in your voice,
if I had a homeland, I would make you its flag.
But I’m a stranger, unarmed, like a nun,
so come to me bearing your marvelous fire
and heal my stabbed body of its wounds.
Call me to hearten my dust, to make my sand despair.
Yours is the anthem of all victories,
yours the final triumph in my war.


Follow me, follow me
and guard me, majestic peaks,
become my defeated army
and my adversary at celebrations.
O Unseen,
you are the winds of my unrest and confusion.


حرب الذاكرة 

،نادني أيها المجهول بكل أصواتك المدهشة
،امنحني سفنك المنقذة
،فقلبي بحرُها الصغير
.الهائم بحبك
،لو كان لي أحباء لناديتهم بصوتكَ
،لو كان لي وطنٌ لجعلتكَ علما له
،لكنني غريبةٌ وعزلاءُ كالراهبة
،فهيا إليّ حاملا نيرانك الرائعة 
.واشفِ جسدي من الطعنات 

.نادني ليتفاءلَ ترابي، وييأس رملي

،لكَ نشيدُ الانتصارات
.لكَ الغلبةُ الأخيرة في حربي
.اتبعني، اتبعني
،واحرسيني أيتها القمم
،كوني جيشي في الهزائم
.وغريمي في الاحتفالات 
،أيها الغيب
.أنت رياح قلقي وذهولي

Sania Saleh was a Syrian poet born in 1935 in the city of Musayaf in the province of Hama, author of three collections of poetry and one of short stories, as well as a posthumously published Collected Poems. She studied at Damascus University, and married the poet Mohammed al-Maghout, whom she met through poet Adonis in Beirut, himself married to her sister, Khalida Saïd. They had two daughters. Sania Saleh died of cancer in Paris in 1986. The Egyptian poet Iman Mersal has an essay on her work that can be read online here.
Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen books of poems, including Blazons (2019) and A Stranger’s Mirror (2015), a collaborative book, Diaspo/Renga, written with Deema K. Shehabi (2014) and an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (2010). Her translations of French and Francophone poets include Samira Negrouche’s The Olive Trees’ Jazz (2020) and Claire Malroux’s Daybreak (2020). A Different Distance, a collaboration with Karthika Naïr, will be published in December 2021.