Bilingual recordings: Eight Poems by Aicha Bassry

translated by Eric Sellin & Mbarek Sryfi


On the Edges of Autumn

I shall close death’s doors.
I am the autumn’s last flower.
Edith Södergran


My body is like algae
Exhausted by the night’s diving.
Gather me up in your blueness
That I might float on the surface of your sleep –
A purple dream.
Perhaps a plant shall bloom
On the edges of autumn.


Nothing . . .

 On the outskirts of autumn,
I searched for what remained of the almond milk taste
In my mouth.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Someone has chewed life with my mouth,
But didn’t share the nectar with me.


The Winter Wasn’t Late

Eugene, this is my tale,
A tale of a fiery autumn.
– N. Inoue, Japanese poet

Nature has taken its toll on my body,
"Relentlessly, dauntlessly.
It is I who slipped away from my autumn
And slept on green grass.
For one passionate moment
I believed that winter was late in coming.


Let’s Believe in the Beginning of Autumn

Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season,
Let us believe in the ruin of the gardens of the mind . . .
And in caged seeds . . .
—Forugh Farrokhzad

In the forties,
That is, in middle age,
No roses in the garden charm us.
In the forties,
Birds abandon their nests,
And the numbers grow rusty in our memory.
In the forties,
The moon shifts its shadow’s gaze away from the window,
So that your dying flame is not reflected in its eyes.
Even the sun
Has not read your horoscope as it used to every morning –
The sun does not have the mirror’s courage
To reveal to you the beginning of autumn.


With the Scent of the Rain by worldlittoday

With the Scent of the Rain 

Were I to leave this body,
Just remove it . . .
Decomposing matter does not concern me.
I give you my heart;
The dead do not love.
I give you my eyes;
The dead do not cry.
I give you my womb;
The dead do not procreate . . .
Just leave me my lungs:
For I love the scent of the earth
When the first showers arrive. 


The Beach Departs

The sun has gathered up its skirts and left.
The waves have collected their foam and left.
The sand has shaken off what remained of the day’s footsteps
And left.
Even the seagulls
– Though wet with longing for twilight –
Will leave for their nests . . .
And I, alone,
Secretly elude death,
Abetted by the soul
But not by the body.


With Urgency

No one has desired me
– with urgency – as death has.
I have lived many lives in my metaphors.
That is how I extended life
And forged a small eternity for myself.



I do not like death,
Nor does life entice me.
So, Oh Allah, give me
A diaphanous shroud from the sky
In which to bury this “in-between.”


English readings of Bassry's eight poems (Read by Eric Sellin)

Translations from the Arabic
By Mbarek Sryfi & Eric Sellin

Editorial note: From khulwatu al tayr (The bird’s seclusion), copyright © 2010 by Aicha Bassry. Translations copyright © 2012 by Mbarek Sryfi & Eric Sellin.

Photo by Antonio Reyes

Aicha Bassry was born in Ben Ahmad, Morocco in 1969. Her publications include massā’āt (2000; Evenings); araqu al-malā’ikah (2003; Angels’ insomnia); laylah sari`atu al `atab (2007; A fragile night); and khulwatu al tayr (2010; The bird’s seclusion), from which the present extracts are taken. Her poems have also been translated into Spanish, French, Turkish, and Italian.

Eric Sellin, professor emeritus at Tulane University (New Orleans), now lives in Philadelphia. His translations have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including New Directions, The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry, and The Literary Review. A frequent contributor to WLT, Sellin also served on the jury for the 1984 Neustadt Prize.

Mbarek Sryfi is a lecturer in Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania where he is completing a PhD in modern Arabic literature. He is also an adjunct assistant professor at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey and currently is a visiting lecturer at Swarthmore College. His translations from the Arabic have appeared in CELAAN Review and Metamorphoses.