Two Franco-Egyptian Poems

April 12, 2022
translated by Lauren Peat
A photograph of a rundown room, mostly shrouded in shadow, with light streaking in an open door on the right
Photo by Nathan Wright / Unsplash

proofs of the living

Engraved in the nation of the body
That fetters or sets free

Unto implacable absence
Our lives
Will pave Life’s

proofs of beauty

In these daybreaks of still-fermenting night
With what impetus
to climb?

With what eye to contemplate
Cities, faces, centuries, sufferings, hope?

With what hands to dig
an eternally fecund soil
Raise up an edifice of open air?


With what tenderness to cherish life and earth
Abolish the finish line
Relieve the gash?

By what light to discover
the beauty of things
Stubbornly intact
beneath the peelings of calamity?

Translations from the French

Photo by Stéphane Béchaud / Flammarion

Born in Cairo, Andrée Chedid spent her early years hopscotching between Egypt, Lebanon, and France. She eventually settled in Paris, where she was deemed “the lady of two rivers”—the Nile and the Seine. A prolific prose writer and playwright, Chedid claimed that poetry was her favorite form, one to which she returned “as though it were the essential spring.” She won the Prix Goncourt for poetry in 2002 and was named a Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur in 2009. She died in 2011.

Lauren Peat’s poems, translations, and interviews have appeared in AGNI, Asymptote, The Puritan, Volume, and elsewhere; her writing is also featured in the repertoire of acclaimed vocal ensembles across Canada. She currently lives on traditional Coast Salish territory (Vancouver), and at