Georges Amsellem

Translated by Howard Scott

Three Poems by Georges Amsellem

Originally published in Nomad’s Land (Les Éditions Balagane, 2014).


Travelling Heart

I hear your whispered secrets,
In you
Your memories jostling,
On the tip of your tongue, choked back

And me, frozen
By your heedless silence.

Are you from here?
How can I know?
I come from elsewhere,
That, I’ve already been told.

I left from I don’t know where,
Behind my tracks have been erased.
The travelling heart,
My confidences being shared,
Seeking to cross, over to you,
The bridge of words,
To reach love on the other side.

What can I do?
How not to lie,
When all truth is not good to speak.

Words are silent,
Memory is in the street.
It is already far off,
Buried in a corner
Beyond sight.

Crazy and drunk with forgetting,
There are no more friends,
No more enemies,
Alone together,
Yesterday as tomorrow
Quiver the souls of humans.

Yell, scream, tell,
If you can’t speak, sing!

Time jumps, makes circles and holes,
Turns me dizzy,
Apparently it’s curved,
Bent, stooped like me?
Has it aged too,
Under the weight of eternity?

What does it matter!

Let’s go see the other side of time,
Long ago we were there
Before coming back, we recognized each other
Had already told each other everything.


From the Other Side of the Water

I’m going to the mountain
On the other side of the water
Once scaled
By Iberians, Moors and Israelites
And where today
Great Britons perch

There, from high on the rock
I can see all
Andalusia, Seville, Cordoba
Toledo and Murcia
Even Alhambra

I’ve left nothing
I’m only backtracking

Yes, from the summit of the mountain
You will see what you want
You will be able to celebrate the marriage
Of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
And contemplate the azure in the sea

But you know, dear traveller,
Besides that, there’s nothing to do, there,
In Gibraltar.


The Monkeys of Gibraltar

On my road back
After Algeciras
I can still hear the startled laughter of
The monkeys of Gibraltar
Incredulous at seeing me turning back
Murmuring if that’s the way it is
Then exile is over

But I, a pilgrim with soles of sand,
Am only stopping by
On my crossing of memory

For afterwards, I say to you, dear watchman,
I will not forget
The evil gate of Andalusia
Justly named Málaga

amsellem george 20151029Georges Amsellem was born in Morocco and migrated to Montreal 1968 by way of Israel and France, making a career for himself in writing and film production. His experiences have made him especially sensitive to the condition of immigrants and minorities. Torn between exile and hope, his poetry, free of nostalgia or self-indulgence, is rooted in the spaces, times and sands of the desert. He shatters reality and rebuilds it for us from its essential elements.

Howard Scott lives in Montreal and translates books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His translation of The Euguelion won the Governor General's Literary Award in 1997. He often collaborates with Phyllis Aronoff. In 2001 they won the QWF translation prize and were Governor General's finalists in 2009. Scott is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. @HowardScott3