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The Fence

by Saadi Youssef

translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa

His house was exposed to dust from the street.
His garden, blooming with red carnations,
was open to dogs
and strange insects,
open to cat claws.
The red carnations, when they bloomed for two days,
were a feast to the dogs
and strange insects,
a feast to cats and their claws.
Dust from the street invading the tender petals.
Salt on the flowers,
salt on hair,
salt on a moon turning in its clothes.

One day he remembered
how his grandfather built the family house.


Saadi Youssef was born in Iraq in 1933. He worked in teaching and journalism in Kuwait, Algeria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Yugoslaia, Yemen, and France. His works include fifteen volumes of poetry, a novel, three books of criticism, and translations of Whitman, Cavafy, Ritsos, and Ngugi wa Thiongo, among others. He left Iraq in 1979 and now lives in Jordan. (1998)

Khaled Mattawa is the author of a book of poems, Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow Press, 1995), and the translator of two books of Arabic poetry, Hatif Janabi's Questions and Their Retinue (U. of Arkansas Press, 1996) and Fadhil Al-Azzawi's In Every Well a Joseph Is Weeping (Quarterly Review of Literature, 1997). (1998)


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