Samira Negrouche

Coffee without sugar
Photo: Karolis Zukauskas
Translated from the French by Martin Sorrell

From In the Privilege of Sun and Wind, in La passe du vent, hommage à René Char, June 2007

"The only liberty, the only state of liberty which I have enjoyed without any restraint, has been in poetry, in its tears and in the radiance of a few people who have come to me from three remotenesses, that of love multiplying me." René Char, Eloge d’une soupçonnée

There are blank pages that run through you as night ends those which a publisher is not expecting and which point towards an imaginary book which you watch grow faint in step with time you prefer to think that it will be forever inside the computer's dead memory.

I like to drink coffee with a splash of synthetic cream I like coffee without anything without sugar I only like the misty cloud of dawn which I catch before sleep it slides fills silently the hills' hollows I like that trickle of cream I ride from breast to nipple.

She's served me murky water in an earth-coloured bowl she says I've written a novel but the floppy disc is defunct she says look at my field of olive trees I've always dreamed of having an orchard I descend the three steps I look in the distance at sun-scorched weeds a concreted lemon tree like a blind pillar I say your field of olive trees is beautiful change to a different make of floppy discs.

One two I count the drops falling from the sky onto the bit of insolent plastic left lying on the balcony three four all thoughts are fit to pursue when nothing comes not desire nor sleep I look for a cigarette furtively not that I even smoke.

Didouche Mourad Street 12.35 a.m. the two men move forward they say we're going to walk to the far end until you can hardly see us right to the 23rd century I say poets are mad and thankfully those two do exist we'll go they say on camelback into the desert meanwhile I must translate body forth some bends which aren't really mine Cats don't need us to talk to them right inside their ears they don't circle their bowls they remain patient then flat out on the jumbled desk skilfully they curl themselves around their centre of gravity at the optimum distance from the radiator you've scarcely even raised a foot and they already know if you're just changing position or leaving.

Still that trembling hand scarcely presses the vulgar biro to a crossword puzzle grid the piano lid stays dusty and closed the poet's a frightened shadow on a wrecked armchair facing the extinguished lamp of a sleeping mosque and dreams of the day that will dawn without him.

I say that to write the most obvious things you must first write about the birth from your mother your father love bodies of women of men of rapist and assassin and incest of doubt of night of hunger desert books jealousy suspicion sex ruins sea trees archaeology Greek and pagan gods stars I say all this is almost commonplace before and after writing.

The word mountain must be multiplied with sharp and hungry breathing retain what may resemble a blackout through lack of air like a frontier that can be drawn between mourning and resurrection.

Slide among the dead leaves of a winter that's late and let yourself roll dislocated knees rusty muscles deaf to all movement animal mineral scaling and tumbling amid a sensation of existing to embrace the horizon.

I like this Theatre Square where actors pour in and out of the no.1 tram I sip a glass of some liquid which my hands have warmed and I await night I perform my theatre among the free and assured silhouettes I blame cultural shock and long to be insouciant just a touch.

Sometimes I think I should quickly slip the moorings take the first boat the first plane the first anything simply leave with dangling arms solitary heart with the sense that the world is immense I go the length of the port boulevard I hear the boat barking tempting distracting me I almost crush a pedestrian and tell myself Algiers is a whore I can't give up.

Yes I can believe the future will be nasty now that to cross the Mediterranean millimetre-measured photos are required taken against a crimson-tinged white background and an exercise bike to heel Achilles tendons before green spaces are aerated by leap-year rotations and the forests cleared by July's false fires.

I'm happy to encounter in the manner of Prevert the mysteries of New York and then the mysteries of Paris and why not make a lament out of my little demons and my big caprices.

Tomorrow's a day no one wants to think about so tomorrow goes through its hours and takes up position by the window without waiting for the moon to vanish.

The painter says written things are signs for me they're not graphics insects framed by my screen since I've taken my leave of Arab lettering I'm scared the mountain of books might become a wave of indecipherable signs.

She sets a writing task she says recount a day's events she says use the present tense and she constructs some little sentences I say my memory's jam packed too many things are happening or not enough in a day how to peel Günter Grass's onion how to press the alarm bell how to enter the day which relies on words that matter how to hold with your gaze the truth of that moment the birth or the death of language I as well would be happy to know what happened one day in the present live it all again but this day today I'm really tired

What sets up encounters are sometimes the four winds, homing in on an eagle's nest and the instant of a word of love, cancelling out the forces of opposition.

There are times when sleep lifts from you something which seems like injustice or maybe madness.

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