Drafts of Love: five poems

translated from French and Arabic by Susanna Lang and Kay Keikkinen





A woman walks by
hands in her pockets
once she has passed out of sight
I’ll forget your last words
I no longer know
if you said
later or goodbye
or both at once
you know so well
how to fit one phrase inside another
like nesting dolls

maybe you didn’t say anything
so important



Will you wait for me in the dream
where I look for you at dawn
when sleep comes
slipping between us




Don’t slice
my heart in rings
I won’t know how
to set them back in place



I’m fortunate
the dream factory
where I work nights
stretched out in bed
produces the ephemeral
and thank goodness
the government doesn’t tax
profits from dreams




You are sitting
at the other end of the sofa
I don’t know where to search
for the missing pieces
of the puzzle between us






Born in Algeria in 1965, Souad Labbize lived in Germany and Tunisia before moving to Toulouse, France. She has published a novel, J’aurais voulu être un escargot (“I would have liked to be a snail”) and several poetry collections, including Brouillons amoureux (“Drafts of love”) and most recently Je franchis les barbelés. (“Climbing over barbed wire). Very committed to gender equality, she writes in the name of all women who choose exile in order to affirm their independence.

Susanna Lang’s translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone, and she has published translations of work by René Depestre, Paul Éluard, Claude Esteban, Alain Paire, and Yves Bonnefoy in journals such as World Literature Today, New Directions, Massachusetts Review, and Kosmos. Her translations of poems by Nohad Salameh are forthcoming in New Poetry in Translation. Her third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017.

Kay Heikkinen has taught at Concordia University Wisconsin and Middlebury College’s Arabic School. Currently the Ibn Rushd Lecturer of Arabic at the University of Chicago, she has also published translations of several Arabic novels, including Clouds Over Alexandria by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid.

These poems were featured in TLR: Granary.

Please note that in the print edition, the translation was listed as “from Arabic,” when in fact, the poems were translated from French, with reference to translations that had been done with the author’s participation from French to Arabic.