Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine

translated from the French by Jake Syersak

from Proximal Morocco—

Mixed-up Times
To Samuel Beckett
The Forger


Mixed-up Times

obliviousness and roses are intoning the song of the mixed-up times’
I raise a glass once more to death’s health
an icy wine
and constrict my throat into one sore and joyful bouquet
braying with guilt and tautly
drawing unlike any horse could
your tranquil grin from tree to tree

and this is how every love ends and every enormous sky gives way
and this is how I find my footing through the dismasted poem
traversing an embittered reef
the color of your pupils and of marble

evacuate my heart already
cancerous land
steer yourself toward the wrinkles of my brow
and let your eyes wander the sutures
of another who’s torn to shreds and says no more.



quagmire glowing rosier at the very tip of syringes
where I ferry back and forth through the silicosis-laden evening ceding
its best shot to every last transient miscreant straying The quagmire’s
phlegm spat from the sky and ghastly suicidal
dead land—
Wherein the lily weaves the poisons of the factories together into its music
the twisted crime of scoria wound up and around its abscesses
unfurls a bloody red city over the entirety of man
and disperses it across the face of the stars pock-marked by purpura.
The only life spouted from my memory
spurns the early morning hours as the river expels
the iguana with the fluted sound the sands are doing away with.
But there it is, that golden eroder of eyes,
there it is,
that furious colossus which is adjoining itself to God.


To Samuel Beckett

There’s nothing quite so clear as night colluding with
lightning from here on out the sand I gnaw away at and find feminine
through these eyelids of mine weaponized by protons. There’s nothing quite so clear
as a night rife with fire ants and its flea-ridden traffic.
Its obliterated eyes calmly coo and suck my blood out like a leech
Its head dangling from my liver decrepit javelin
Slender filthy rank and increasingly true though increasingly unlikely
To curdle a gull’s course of flight unsuccessfully posing as an eel
Pure alone pierced-through with needles dense yet force-fed
Hauling a sack of lovely terrors Casting out
everything that’s soul weeping infancy worldliness everything Mankind
Yet voluminously reproductive voluminously quagmire
Insomuch as it’s been swindled by my know-how it’s unfolding
over dawn’s eye smoldered and then moored
Insomuch as there’s nothing quite so clear as the suicidal night
and the cerebral black of glass born from my own looking out
Its obliterated eyes calmly coo and suck my blood out like a leech

Inveigh cry out dance around decry kill nothing but what’s clearest
On the inside of a newspaper spread out across my fealty
Lamellae striated with lives stirred about from inside the retina
Of trees mutilated by the greasiness of the countless figures
Through every last mirror belonging to shadowy shadowy memory
Looming over the forgetful pebble and the sea which heaves it upward
To the obliterated eyes which calmly coo and suck blood out like a leech
Kill cry out dance around decry strike through what’s not so clear

And I crawl throughout the foliage and I transmute it and I dispute it
And like the many-legged lithobiidae I consume the sawed-out images of sound
I myself feeling as though I’m flourishing inside the clammiest of wrinkles
And I leave with a laugh salvo of shadows and swift habituations
To disintegrate if not in mourning then at least with some vitriol
The machine gun situated between my eye and my exile
And I crawl throughout the foliage over your body of urgent water
So that the great book opens up and begins erasing the Earth
So that the Terror Spikes of Thought which stand up against and invert
The verses of your History cloistered in the white space assassinating me
Scrawl your signature over the book opened to the greyest and blackest of stars
There’s nothing quite so incredibly clear as the sky at a loss for breath
Over your hair and the tapestries of kohl encircling your eyes
And I crawl throughout the foliage and I transmute it and I dispute it
Launched by the gluttonous lightning and the force-feedings of silence
Assembled by the asteroid-thistles and the Pure
Ink that manifested my night from its ossuaries
The Lachaises the Baudelaires and the storms of the sky
With a Commune that laps the shore crawls throughout it and disputes it

World Is This what the World amounts to the pesticidal norm The War
without any guitar without any genuine vitriol save the silence
Like a ladder moulded from the green teeth of Ramses
whose sob-sands embalm the black-ochre-gold-blue-on-white
of mummy-wrapped-talismans which desecrate The Tribe
Your portrait slung over the backsides crooked with opprobrium
Reaper Submerger drooling over the wounds
Of the world wherefrom I draw my Négritudal acidity
into my lungs until they burst with what the eye of God breathes deeply inward
Swimming through the pus of the people and petrifying
the legibility of their eyes which engross this eye of mine with a red opacity
World Is This what the World amounts to the opera which slay-operates
With its words and with its long-bladed koummya daggers and with
Its little statistics and with its traffics through the heart
And the Corpse sold and sold away again and again by the clergymen
World Is This what the World amounts to the pesticidal norm The War

There’s nothing quite so clear as night colluding with
lightning from here on out the sand I gnaw away at and find feminine
through these eyelids of mine weaponized by protons. There’s nothing quite so clear
as a night rife with fire ants and its flea-ridden traffic.


The Forger

I yearn for some other lump of molding clay a whereabouts to sprout man from
man’s decency
to round up as flowers some unpolluted souls through the yellowing
no more of this windowsill pressed up against a city
I circumcised stretching out the remains of
a living tableau for the rest of all you shooting stars
I yearn for a land I could potentially conflate
with my blood my blood some turbulent sort of thing
                                                                                        a land
I could love
with a caustic love
I yearn for your laughter to atrophy the expansive space
so riveted to molecules
if only I wasn’t straying so
if only my flesh
weren’t this landscape so loaded down with misery and quarrels
a fly-trap
this odor which closes me up
perhaps some sunlight would come up over my shoulders
perhaps I would reopen myself up to the hazards of this world
perhaps you would even say
                                                 this man
we stomped him into
                                     this land
while at the quiescently pale crossroads
an old forger
impales you in the forehead.



Our ancestors were those who possessed storehouses full of wheat
they watched the sun from the time it rose to the time it set
and they never once wondered why. Never once
did our ancestors offer asylum to any king. Their land
blistered the king’s bare feet, far too delicate
to walk a land of unexplodable shadow and sun exposure
whose kettledrums and iron my ancestors pounded
while scything wheat on a summer’s day, overflowing with cicadas,
with the length of a yet un-kneaded shroud which called itself land,
the womb of the world circumscribed by a handful of fortified isles—
            Never once did our ancestors
            to stringing together a crown of thorns—
            The argan tree and the cactus
            served perfectly well the function of palace and crown—
            And our ancestors read
            good fortune
            in the midnight stars shining golden as the barley
            that the infestation of kings were growing envious of.

And then throughout the land swept a Blackness with its Krupp cannon
and divided the sunny obscurity from our ancestors—
Every woman with child immediately miscarried—
A tempestuous sky plummeted onto the craniums of the deceased
in flakes made of snakes and disgrace—
But never would our ancestors have given up their way of life
were it not for this Krupp cannon and the king’s jaws,
the bearer of long rifles and flasks full of gunpowder—
For the king cowered in his harem while twenty thousand
Imazighen encircled him, their bodies tightening
like ten million strands of high-tensile-strength barbed wire—




For too long now I’ve lived inside this shitstorm where the day
falls from grace with a sneer more strident than the galloping
of a thousand riled-up stallions. For too long now I’ve
suffered through the roseate hatred gushing out like a knife
in the words of a king who camouflages himself in a urinal—
Get this, in exchange for freeing the lives of our lands his father
demanded I sacrifice my own and he said it with such derision
that I jumped the metro going from Spain to Tangiers Shadowy City
where you could count the dead by the hundreds.
I traded in my life without a second thought, that goes without saying,
and I said to myself: If kings insist on living, as for me, I’ll stick with death.
That’s what things have come to in this shriveled gutter
I, from this day forward, dare not call Morocco—
Rock resonated from the miscarriages owing to a revolt of stars—
It’s we who are the people who’ve grown sterile, whose breast
expels the cankers of a thousand assassinated lives—
The uneasy slate neither grey nor black over which the king
wobbles out onto and pisses out his bilious liquors while a caustic
people spit vitriol without aversion in his direction although restrained
by the police squads and scorpions which comb through his restless
nights under the termite-eaten roof joists and the stars bursting
with laughter at the snot-nosed misery of disemboweled mothers.



                                                                        (On the Tomb of Che Guevara)


Liberty is what’s to be found at the end of a sheet of paper,
at the end of a fire-arm without sights, at the end
of a loaded cartridge, completely emptied out. Liberty is a constraining tether
that possesses you like a poet or a wild hare dwelling under the moon’s
golden inefficacy, where two lonely men are taking a walk
into this hour of uneasy noises and the convictions rounding them off.
Into this hour of thrones and the rolling swells of waves, love
casts its objection, with an arm more coercively contrary
than any stray bullet in Africa, that which screams its lungs
out so as to ensure the clouds will laugh, and thereby raise
the subsoil of men to be rediscovered in this magma-laden
park of precarious insults and aborted orgasmic sensations.
Into this hour where Asia, macerated, soiled, but not yet closed-
in-upon by the enclosures of iron constraints and morose fangs,
into the hour in which the void envelops the Earth’s span
disheveled the magnitude whereby God measures out his death
into this hour of interstellar cyclings and the faunae
of malodorous kif, putridly-scented cash, and halo-coiffed napalm,
Che Guevara reloads the leopard’s essence into the proletarian blood
which the Yankee tracks into city streets and pulverizes
with its own dreams and berets fully cognizant
of the militant poverty of the Americas
whose fight resides in every essence of blood like a leopard’s
like a warhead easing its way into the underworld of the passer-by—
Into this hour in which everyone is summoned to obliterate
this prison imparting the screams of those left stranded:
masques lashed to the length of the javelin and the rifle
sloughing off the poorly reared-up life of mucousy suns
inside African concentration camps,
liberty is what’s to be found at the end of a sheet of paper,
the end of a fire-arm where both black and white
yellow into a holy book forged in cobalt
and strike the enemy in his strong-boxes, gathering
up the cancerous debris of liberties, denied,
tarnished, bruised, yet laughing all the while at the engineers
of tranquil death inside every last bit of death’s hallucinatory laughter.


Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine is widely considered to be one of the most
influential avant-garde writers of Moroccan and Amazigh (Arab-Berber)
heritage. He is especially renowned for his “guerrilla linguistic,” an
incendiary, Surrealist-inspired, iconoclastic style of writing. Alongside
Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri, he helped found the avant-
garde journal of Francophone/Arab art and culture, Souffles-Anfas.

Jake Syersak is the author of the full-length Yield Architecture
(Burnside Review Books, 2018) and several chapbooks, including
the recent First Breaths (OOMPH! Press, 2019), a collection of
Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s early work originally published in
Souffles-Anfas. He edits Cloud Rodeo, co-edits Radioactive Cloud,
and serves as a contributing editor for Letter Machine Editions.

Note: Proximal Morocco— [ Ce Maroc ! ] was written in fits and starts between the years
1964 and 1974, in the midst of his self-imposed exile from Morocco (to avoid persecution
for his radical political stances). The poems are at one and the same time indicative of the
heartbreak he suffered after fleeing his home country and the disgust he harbored for its
degradation under the postcolonial reign of King Hassan II. Full of entreaties, dedications,
and missives to various locales, artists, intellectuals, and revolutionary figures, Proximal
is a chronicle of Khaïr-Eddine’s attempt to find a new home, to stake a claim
for Amazigh heritage and assimilate into a hostile environment abroad.