Butterfly Valley

As I continue to pack my life away, I keep stumbling upon these incredible things that I never even knew I had…so I decided to share my favourite thing that I’ve found so far, a poem. It was in a journal of translations that I bought at last year’s AWP Conference in Washington DC. The journal is called Two Lines: World Writing in Translation and features over 40 poems/stories in their original language, as well as their English translation. At AWP I fell in love with their 2009 volume titled Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed, and I found it again while packing. I opened it up and the first poem I read was Butterfly Valley. It’s incredible. It was originally written by Sherko Bekes in Kurdish, and Choman Hardi translated it into English.

Where do you come from? They ask me—
the question transfiguring into a blackberry
that prompts my voice to bleed.
For the thousandth time, I name my flower.
Some nod after a moment,
as if, once, the wind had carried this past their ears.
But most suffocate in silence,
their necks an exclamation mark.

Vexed, from my pocket I take out a map.
A map crumpled like politics—
torn and sullied like the ethics of nation states.
I place my finger on my divided sun.
From here, from Noah’s ship I have come—
I was born by the snows of Mount Judi.

Yours are bright daydreams—
daydreams from old myths and legends.
Your aspirations, a mirage.
My father also carried his homeland in his eyes,
he was a date tree on a coast,
a sleepy coast in North Africa.
Then the mutinous ocean overcame him:
he ended up in Oslo.
One cold night, in a bar like this one
he met my mother.
My name is Margarita.
Till he died, my father
had dreams like you.

These were the words of a half-Moroccan girl.
She told me this on a cold night,
In a packed bar in Oslo. They were a grove of
cheerful girls and boys; they swayed
to the rabbiting of music and lyrics.

I was sitting with a shy poem—
the bird of my hallucinations and myself,
the smoke of my cigarette and myself:
they devoured each other in a corner.

The mixed-race girl, Margarita, has become
the moon over the snow of Norway.
She has become the steamy breath of these streets,
a letter in this language,

the wings of music in these bars.
Morocco, her father’s country
is only three images in her mind,
three phantoms and nothing else:

a desert, a date-tree and a camel.

—Sherko Bekes/Choman Hardi

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