Moi l’aigre

He comes to terms with the devil. But he will no longer exist for us The year went by between collective work and sanguine rumors. Everyone at my place But I didn’t feel alone enough And yet I riveted them to my putrefied skin. I feed a guy who forgets spits fistulas at the good blood of heaven greener than gabbed. I erode crumbling into vast gluttonies and laughter, very studied. I strap them up mentally. I no longer listen to him; he clucks knowing that his caiman eggs have been sucked empty. The sour one plays with them in his belly. I issue a national death certificate and I make his seat crack.

Then he imagines himself dead laid out stiff in the process of sucking the soils that had never forgiven him. He was blistering under his skin. It was a much more wary laughter. He quartered us in his internal death. Not one word came out of him, not one. Maybe he was versifying while our heads baptized them Ax, Anthill, Nail. He waited for his coffin to be on our shoulders to see us sweat. Voui z’il crottait. Again, the dilettante earth! She ate me free of charge. They saw asthma rising. They gave themselves over to the most rancid copulation. Gutted time in a tree’s nothingness. Thundered in the biliary gold of the rocks up front calling everything rat that crawled in the dust and at the foot of bars. The tumbler drowned even the water. Lukewarm my night crossed the boundary of being. But nothing resembled a festival. The lamps (there were none) would have given God’s blood to spy on me. The next day I went to the cemetery to check if I was still there. I was neither in the entranceway’s flagstone nor in the trees that were listening and distilling even the smallest of my movements. The birds had stopped to admonish the ground and the squares of grass. Everything was getting back to normal. Inside themselves things were railing against each other. He had done his book without warning me, but I knew that every second spent outside of him was a life that didn’t flow. He was fateless. The world of the roads, no matter its variety, tolerated him too much to permit himself anything but an altercation. And yet he would fold back upon himself and screamed at himself, scratched his nerves and invented a decent death for himself. A real toad, half-screech, half-coo. How could that toad have cawed? Language, speech in fact, is treated is if it were the dish of daily grub. Everything’s numbered, ciphered, my head included. So he had reached his goal. What remained was to pierce the ears of the bushes. His country was traveling. His house? Non-existent. Here and there the clamor rose that he had killed his gods and cut his mother’s glottis. To honor his decrepitude, they had even erected ten new mosques bedecked the emptiness of his stature but he sent a pack of hyenas and the best tusks at his disposal to patiently gnaw away at the sacred stone. It had been said that he would not have any kind of ancestor.

Midnight. The alcoholic no one needs. She dragged him along to get his bone scraped and stuff a belly that spent its time watching television in a pool of piss and maybe picks his nose or dives head forward damning a heaven that I didn’t know even though I had based my colic on it. She imagined him capable of building a paradise in his very ruins. A simple hearth with meadows to rip out your eye and ear while you’re asleep. But he fell down stiff soon as she neighed. He burned up Africa in his kidneys and the blood chased from his heart. It was a seething of fermented fevers. Not a scream but a thunderclap or Hiroshima their damned glory. Not a star that smites you and modifies the lines of your hands. No, not even a man! That he had never been. They’d wanted to make him into one of those who asks only to stuff himself. He would have been incapable of dealing with that condition. An unqualifiable body that dispossessed itself continuously. A permanent torture or a scribe. A bird-man-stone whose movements atrophied everything that would have made it look like a human being. He had studied the concept of crime. For him crime was nothing less than a writing. A writing that couldn’t  be bothered with alphabetic signs. He didn’t wage a guerilla war either but a cyclone of sand-blast-God-get-your-feet-caught-in-the-trap. If he wrote, it was a tornado that stammered at you:

She sings only to displease me,

The gal who burps! A true statue

that had to be deciphered by a cannibal.

I dedicate that to those who can’t,

those who don’t tolerate to be seen together.

And yet see you tomorrow in the great shebeen

where nobody ever enters.

This gent was laughing, forgetting himself.

Comrades who are waging war! You, guilty?

But while he was searching for the order which neither cement nor beaten earth could have erected, they slashed his arms, forcing him to devour himself. He had written that while discarnating himself, he, knocked out, Mister Useful-refusal-for-our-cause; we’ll have to shoot him down sooner or later; we’ll sleep on top of his debris of nightdog-incision-serpent-clock-that-bleats! When a man does as we do and does not find the means to change his body, he’s an anarchist, you say! You worry yourself silly to know how to respond to what is not made out of your own matter. You’ll be picked up by the street cleaners or the police. They’ll detoxicate you with or without your consent. His burning body hit the road signs, the night of sweat and sperm and the red glow-worms lighting up everything except the telephone poles! Her breast of earth of sap boiled impregnating her voice and her inaudible snore; she on the beach that I don’t know, on a bed of tobacco leaves. No doubt we both mildewed there—and no other glue. This body dangling from my rhombi and feet swaying at the end of a rope that ate the lice of the nomad erasing darkness after ejaculation the lions eyes breaking in the ground teeth broken by thirty reins and a few centuries of royalties that have never been in order with themselves  Twelve thousand prisoners who have their plasma burned Often easily identified with rebels another title he claims A few palaces bank accounts to avoid the ruin of the half-starved hillock And his body what about his body No one maybe has ever observed it closely enough. Write: His giving body given the epicenter opened the maw of the parricidal terrain And his snoring body in my body countering the ambushes The king finished his maggoty toilet fed his bleaks the fishing hooks were rare a king doesn’t get enamored easily of industries other than those that manufacture arms imported from Italy Let’s not mention that prick! He doesn’t even merit to be called surexistant He knows his business all too well He strews too much feeling all over the carpet not to foreclose you and at the same time he is wary of stool pigeons, givers, donors They don’t hesitate to cloister him Sabotaging the smallest pebble drinking the fraternal sperm of the public writers directly from their pricks directly from the belief in the unbelievable and during it all from the vermicular belt of a devil who hastens every end undermining the tree Let him enlighten himself! Not go anywhere except into the always absent silence! LET’S CUT HIM DOWN! He didn’t want to hit the bull’s eye He doubted not only us but other wrecks as well that viciousness and rage will be but an unforeseeable tornado Listen you asses I bemoan the Blood-big-as-my-scepter Enormously the Adventure is so strong If you enter you will not leave again He writes caustically errs gives orders cuts up cracks without ever finishing himself off completely Oyez! Pour beer into his inkwell. Polish the shoes of his nothingness. Hasten your death. I want to remain alone my birds copulate on the rock finally locked and bolted. Where are you from? Dictate that they should rearm! That they fault the strophe low or the stone machine. In my palace only fresh breasts torn from the tree of science circulate. I have bought women and film directors without talent. Talent is in exile. All Africa won’t put up with any. No one’s on the heels of Mister Talent. He worries only the guinea pigs who drug themselves by themselves but we all admit that a people of talents doesn’t suit the powers that be Talent leaves me cold but don’t think that it preoccupies me Don’t think that it makes uneasy cripples or kinglets me I’m exacerbated enough Let them simply forbid talent here It would grow in our clarity in the no man’s land of our sun so beautifully situated and even cited in the prospectuses and by our real estate agents it is our soil & persistent phlegm it is also our desert nights that give it a place of honor above our heads Talent dies boorishly under our sun Let talent be born and grow in the cold and let’s call our sun forbidden land (…)


Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine

The major francophone writer of his generation, Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine was born in 1941 in Tafraoute, Southern Morocco, of Berber stock. In 1961, he wrote a major manifesto of contemporary Maghrebian literature called Poésie Toute, calling for a “linguistic guerrilla” poetics, a program he was to stay faithful to for all of his life. He was an advocate for Berber culture, strongly opposed to the regime of Hassan II, to religion, and to the cultural hegemony of Arabic. One of the co-founders (with Abdellatif Laâbi) of the magazine Anfas/Souffles ("Breaths"), he lived in self-exile in France from 1965, returning to Morocco only in 1979. Khaïr-Eddine died in Rabat on November 18, 1995, the Independence Day of Morocco. His core works (still untranslated into English, except for short extracts) are Nausée Noire (1964), Agadir (1967), Soleil Arachnide (1969) Moi l'aigre (1970), Le Déterreur (1973), Une Odeur de mantèque (1976), Résurrection des fleurs sauvages (1981), and the posthumous Légende et vie d'Agoun'chich.

Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris is a poet, translator, essayist, and anthologist who left Luxembourg at nineteen and has since lived in France, England, Algeria, and the United States. He has published over forty books, most recently Justifying the Margins: Essays 1990-2006 (which contains a memoir for Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine) and Aljibar I & II (poems). Other recent publications include the CD Routes, not Roots and Meditations on the Stations of Mansour Al-Hallaj 1-21. Recent translations include Paul Celan: Selections, and Lightduress by Paul Celan, which received the 2005 PEN Poetry Translation Award. With Jerome Rothenberg, he edited the award-winning anthologies Poems for the Millennium (Volumes I & II). He teaches at the University of Albany, SUNY. Check out his website (, through which you can access his Nomadics blog.

Moi l’aigre. Copyright (c) Editions du Seuil, 1970. English translation copyright (c) Pierre Joris, 2009.