Issue 5 – Winter 2003 – Hédi Kaddour

Poetry by Hédi Kaddour

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Hédi Kaddour was born in Tunisia in 1945, but has lived in France since childhood. He has published three books of poems with Gallimard: La Fin des vendanges (1989), Jamais une ombre simple (1994) and Passage au Luxembourg (2000), as well as three books with smaller publishers, and a collection of essays on poetry, L’Emotion impossible. He lives in Paris, teaches comparative and French literature, drama, and creative writing at L’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, and writes a quarterly column on theater for La Nouvelle revue française. Poems of his, in Marilyn Hacker’s translation, have appeared in APR ,The Antioch ReviewThe Denver Quarterly, LyricThe Kenyon Review ,New LettersThe New YorkerThe Paris ReviewPloughsharesPoetryPoetry InternationalPoetry LondonPN ReviewPrairie Schooner and Verse , as well as in the Faber anthology , Twentieth Century French Poems.


The Jackal’s Wedding

When the sky has stayed too intensely
blue for too long, it sometimes happens that people
dress in gray and in dull colors.
Like an appeal. Sometimes a little
rain will even fall.
Then – between the red earth of the hills
the volatile lead of the drizzle
and the first shoots of barley
there’s a kind of sunlight-flash
and the rainbow springs forth.
This is called the jackal’s wedding.


The Fair

Coming back from the pine woods, we greeted
The cook who retired early: his daughter died
In a motorcycle crash; now he raised dogs,
Airedales, reddish and affectionate.
A few gardens farther on, it was
Time for coffee and shortbread cookies
In a living-room where portraits brought back
Stalingrad, then the Berber mountains. 
The woman’s voice declared she had never
Liked wars, or the people who made her eat
Under the table when she was still a child.
On the ceramic of the coffee cups
A couple ambled towards a county fair.



The breasts have assumed the energy
Of the muscles around them, and the compact
Belly thrusts out tight as a spindle
In front of the steep terraces
Of mountain vineyards.
The sun sets fire to the bronze
Folds and the legs part
Beneath the gaze of visitors
While the headless swimmer’s
Shoulders turn away; the power
Culminates in those buttocks
Of a young girl grown used to the studio’s
Ceremonies: they hold on
To the plinth like tenacious pincers. 



Marilyn Hacker is the author of nine books, including Desesperanto (W.W. Norton, 2003), Winter Numbers which received a Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of The Nation magazine and the Academy of American Poets in 1995, Selected Poems which was awarded the Poets’ Prize in 1996, and the verse novel Love, Death and the Changing of the SeasonsShe Says, a translated collection of the Franco-Lebanese writer Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s poems, in a bilingual edition, published by the Graywolf Press, appeared in spring 2003 from the Graywolf Press. She lives in New York and Paris, and teaches at the City College of New York.