Issue > Poetry
Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali

Ananda Devi is an Indo-Mauritian novelist and poet. Her work explores femininity and the experience of alienation within the Indo-Mauritian community, and is characterized by a poetic and lyrical style. Devi won her first literary award at the age of fifteen for a short story submitted to a Radio France Internationale competition. Since then, she has been awarded several literary prizes, including the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie in 2006, the Prix Louis-Guilloux in 2010, and the Prix du Rayonnement in 2014. She studied ethnology and anthropology, completing her doctoral thesis at the School for Oriental and African Studies in London. She has published eight novels and several short stories and works of poetry, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Eve Out of Her Ruins, her second book to be made available in English, was awarded the CLMP Firecracker Award for Fiction in 2017. Devi was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2010.

Kazim Ali’s books encompass poetry, essay, fiction, and cross-genre work. Beside Ananda Devi, he has translated books by Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, Mahmoud Chokrollahi, and Cristina Peri Rossi. Ali has taught at various colleges and universities, including Oberlin College, Davidson College, St. Mary's College of California, and Naropa University. He is currently a professor of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Creative Writing in the Literature Department at the University of California, San Diego.

When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me

(Translated from the French)


At dawn you will descend barefoot
Like a silent cat
on crimson paws
To drink from the river

You'll slip down the bank
Foggy with pleasure
In the silver tracks
of trampled snails

To the south you will search
For some proof you lived here once
Had children, friends,
a love that lasted

But nothing's left of all that
Just the low sky, the river grasses,
Wild water
Abandoned beehives

Your ears strain to hear
The voices of those absent
Until at last the night agrees
to speak to you


Close the door, shut down your fate
Wipe from that mirror
Your icy gaze

Tremble on your knees
At the secret threshold
Of impossible virtue

Never to be a woman
If a body split asunder
Cannot offer you any more

Neither its poisonous fluids
Nor its exquisite silks
So finely shredded

So richly dismembered
By the assault of color
When the darkness is no longer

Fabric of my lies
Of laughter hidden
behind my sealed lips

Filled, if I don't rouse myself,
with all my dreams,
those festive flayings


And why would I keep you from leaving
When the silt has hardened
When seaweed crossed the threshold
Carrying with it the faint smell of the sea

When the sand is so black
That the wind on your tongue
Tastes of drowning
And the salt pierces your skin

Let the truth leave these bodies
Shipwrecked on their reefs
Silt in their mouths
Shore stretching away from the rubble of the wrack-line

Dreams and memories fleeing
Submerged faces
And of the island there only remains
Footsteps echoing of those long since gone


I will not live more than I need
This is what my mother said
This is what my father said

You have to know to leave while there is still time


When the night at last agrees to speak to me
It is with a blade
That slices
Into the places of certainty
That carves
Love into loneliness

When the night at last speaks to me
It is to tell me
The words that didn't know
How to cut into my hands
An infamy long unsaid
Sweet lines of madness

When the night agrees to speak to me
It is with its back turned
Because neither tree nor sapling
Grows from my smooth skin
I haven't suffered enough
Nor laughed well nor loved enough
It will not be content with just a little
Neither lover nor enemy
It wants me to dance

As I lie now in the branches
Of the mango tree
Barely a whirl or eddy
in the glass of the sky
It holds back its hem
From my soiled remains
I am nothing but mud about which
The future has nothing to say


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