The Shutters by Ahmed Bouanani

Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan



In an angel’s bed in a wool dress she sleeps
The house is cold the walls white like a dream
motionless death takes a seat
and for two weeks awaits the end of the temporary peace
to count its cadavers devoured by the moon

In an angel’s bed in a wool dress she sleeps
In the blast from outside the blood of the fête
repeats the violent myth with gold embroidery
to the snickers of birds and a prophet
who suddenly appeared between bloody books and dunes

In an angel’s bed in a wool dress she sleeps
and in her ancestral dream old lunatics
run along the skies bleeding from their whole bodies
toward a silver tower where a thousand firmaments
sip greedily from pale paradises

The paradises were flailing wildly in the halls
there were trees and fruits now archaic
and even archangels pale as a fall night
have come from the distant Adriatic
to be at the fête this Monday night



They are the pale archangels treading quietly
I see them floating and our silence breaks
Their poor hearts glazed against our reality
they celebrate as if it were a birthday
The frightened flies leave the bedroom fast
the specters melt into the bed linen
their lunular coats are merely ash
and ash will not erase oblivion



The children do not understand that one must stop talking
on the eve of the fête and for a long time they sang
songs that I didn’t know when I was young
The aged men count stinkbugs in their coffins
that thrive at the same time as the jujubes
The horizon bears our cavalrymen in one piece
and they dream. With our gunflint weaponry
the centurions will not cross the stream



This Monday of silver- and clay-caused strife
death patiently closes each of its caskets
of ferocious paradises of immobile skies
Before daybreak death will return to the doorstep
The house is cold the savage hills stay mute
bandage the warriors of long ago
My memory is now merely a train station waiting room
where kingdoms without kings sleep forevermore
I have no more shadow I am hardly anything but a shipwreck
that is barely barely echoed by my stare
Grandmother is already on the way to her village
She has imprisoned death in a mirror


The filmmaker and writer Ahmed Bouanani (1938–2011) was born in Casablanca. When Bouanani was sixteen, during the final days of the colonial era, his father, a police officer, was assassinated—a tragedy that the artist returned to in his work for the rest of his life. Bouanani studied film at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris for three years before returning to Morocco and going on to direct several classics of North African cinema. Most of his movies had their genesis in poems, and he published three collections during his lifetime, as well as the novel The Hospital, also appearing in English for the first time with New Directions. Never keen to publish, Bouanani left behind a trove of additional manuscripts.

Emma Ramadan is a literary translator based in Providence, Rhode Island. She is the recipient of a PEN/Heim grant, an NEA Translation Fellowship, and a Fulbright for her work on Bouanani.


This excerpt of The Shutters is published by permission of New Directions Publishing. Copyright © 1980, 1989 by Ahmed Bouanani. Copyright © 2018 by Emma Ramadan.
Published on June 5, 2018.


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