Poetry by Ines Abassi

A Whoop of Kohl

The weave of the night’s cloak.
The blueness of a dawn redolent of the sea’s breaths
and the scent of the departure’s white lilies.
A heart full to the brim… A soul full to the brim.
A city full to the brim with daggers
made up of the silver of days…
The memories…
The memories encroach upon time
in every fall from
the edge of waiting.
The memories glitter on the night’s womb
like the pain
of my kohl’s whoop on your blue shirt.
The memories glitter on the dawn’s eyelashes
like a rhymed dream.
The memories are the strings of the soul’s rebec.
Exactly, in the middle of the dream
the night reveals its prospective fertile face.
It has developed in the bowels of time
ever since the footstep met its parallel
in the jungles of coincidence,
ever since the dance of wolves didn’t stop in your blood
which is burnt with mine,
ever since the soul touched its soul in
the poem’s body,
and ever since the rose of longing didn’t heal
because of passion.
It’s the white ambit containing
the muttering of two lights and the breaths
of errant jasmine
under the night’s windows.
It’s the heart flirting with the heart.
—A memory’s distance,
and the music of tenderness itself
dances with the letters
which were curiously craning their necks
from all twists of language…
This night is clothed
with the sound of violins that epitomizes
the desire of longing and the softness of light.
And the heart which is congested with the blood of longing
is a sea oyster hiding
the bees of language and the splendour of the word.
The heart is yours.
—A garden of longing shadowed by the flowers of the orange trees
and the jasmine of joy.
The heart is yours
and your soul is the wedge of my tent.
The horses of the night have the hums of the timid dawn,
the sound of waves, and the sounds of seagulls.
I was shaking off
the fluff of talk
from my language
and the dust of this time
on the heights of soul
and adoration.

The Prisoner

Like a prisoner who is carving
the number of days and their histories
with his fingernails on the wall,
who is writing down the names of his inmates in the cell
—those who preceded him in the path of absence,
who is registering the date of the first kiss,
the date of his mother’s birthday,
the date of his sister’s success,
and the hope of the first rainbow that he may see.
Like this lonely prisoner in his cell
my heart is awaiting you.


Your smile is a thirsty dove
knocking at my window every midday.
I want to see your timid smile
between the words,
or in the middle of the talk,
or in…
the books from which the scent of distant countries emanates.
Your smile is a naughty dove.—
Whenever I pamper it with a gaze, it flies high in the city’s sky
with two wings of nostalgia and longing.
Your smile is the trap of the unsaid words,
however the longing for words is to be said.

October’s Mirrors

I scrubbed the cloth of longing with drops of the hesitance’s wine,
reshaping my lovers’ countenances
one by one,
smiling at all things
which are now floating heavily on the memory’s surface…
At that time;
that’s to say six years ago,
the moment was completely watery,
including the perforated station’s roof,
the last train that we couldn’t catch,
your blue shirt itself
stained with my kohl’s whoops,
and October wiping out the tears of the clouds
on the summits of trees,
while stubbornly holding autumn on its shoulders.
At that time—
in the winters of mathematics
which coil, bringing me back to swings of letters—
when you used to wake me up
by knocking at the window of my university room with pebbles
to drink our first cappuccino in a hurry.
At that time
the mole slumbering in your chin was meaningful.
The night’s schemes which were punctuated with
the songs of the drunken sailors and builders
were also meaningful,
and so were the mornings when we met between two coasts
over there
under the shadow of the Tunisian autumn.
And nowadays,
are you still sitting in Café Paris
whenever you travel north?
Is October still a mirror of our stories?
No. I didn’t sit on the edge of the river as you predicted.
I, however, crossed it dancing
in a boat made up of the memory’s confusions.


Ines Abassi

Ines Abassi (b. 1981) is a Tunisian writer of poetry and fiction, and a journalist by profession. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Secrets of the Wind (2004) and Archive of the Blind (2007). She also wrote a narrative travel book titled Tales of the Korean Scheherezade based on her experiences during a six-month residency in Seoul.

Ali Znaidi

Ali Znaidi (b. 1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems (Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014), Mathemaku x5 (Spacecraft Press, 2015), and Austere Lights (Locofo Chaps: an imprint of Moria Books, 2017). For more, visit aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

A Whoop of Kohl. Copyright (c) Ines Abassi, 2015. English translation copyright (c) Ali Znaidi, 2017.