Words I

In those days I know now words declaimed the wind
besides pebbles, there were moons, but no lamps
the stars would emerge later from a brawl between two flintstones

I'll tell you everything there were five pebbles
one for each continent
vast enough to contain a child of a different color

So there were five children but no houses
windows but no walls
wind but no streets
the first man wore a stone around his neck

He made an arrangement with the first tree
an oak if I remember correctly
the one who got there first could drink up the ocean

Language at that time was a straight line reserved for birds
the letter "i" was the cleft of a female hummingbird
"h" a ladder with one rung necessary to replace a charred sun before nightfall
"o" a hole in the sole of the universe

Unlike the consonants with their rough garments
the vowels were naked
all the weaver's art consisted of humoring them
in the evening they counted each other to make sure no one was missing
in the rocky countries men slept without dreaming

— Vénus Khoury-Ghata, translated by Marilyn Hacker