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Four Poems by Mohammed Khair-Eddin

[Mohammed Khair-Eddin. Image from Unknown Archive] [Mohammed Khair-Eddin. Image from Unknown Archive]

Mohammed Khair-Eddine (1941-1995) is considered one of the most compelling Moroccan writers of the twentieth century. Born and raised in the southern Berber Moroccan town of Tafraout, Khair-Eddine moved to France in 1965. In 1979 he returned to Morocco where he lived until his death in Rabat in 1995. Mohammed Khair-Eddine, along with Abdellatif Laabi and other Moroccan poets, founded the review Souffles in which they articulated “a new Maghrebian aesthetics that would include both a philosophy of action and a poetics of dream,” transcending the colonizer/colonized dialectics on which the previous generation of writers was fixated.[1] Hédi Abdel-Jaouad writes, “Along with the Algerian Kateb Yacine,Khair-Eddine can also be credited with introducing new and original literary techniques to the Maghreb: stream-of-consciousness, splintered persona, multiple perspectives and other techniques of the discontinuity that has become a hallmark of Post-Souffles Maghrebian literature in French”.

Khair-Eddine’s works are characterizes by a poetics of violence against all established orders from language to religion and morality. He angrily revolted against the three patriarchs dominating the Moroccan society: God, the king, and the father. His father’s repudiation of his mother provoked the anger and bitterness towards the father and tangible in his works. His subversive and iconoclastic writings are also directed towards traditional literary models whose respect for chronology, accuracy, and punctuation he regards with disdain and virulently attacks, calling his writing “guerilla linguistique” that challenges the hegemony of French language. Exile, wandering, and a propensity to explore dream states predominate as well in his works, illustrating the influence of the French surrealists on Khair-Eddine’s writing. His first major work Agadir (1967), based on his first-hand experience of the earthquake that had destroyed the city in 1960, won him the Jean Cocteaur literary prize “Les Enfants terribles”. He wrote a substantial number of novels and poetry collections that won major literary prizes. Khair-Eddine conceives of writing as a space of experimentation, “a social, political and psychoanalytical investigation that heralds the primacy of the image over meaning” and positions the poet as the social and political critic.[2]

[1] Abdel-Jaouad, Hédi. “Mohammed Khair-Eddine: the Poet as Iconoclast.” Research in African Literatures. 23.3 (1992): 145-150. Web.

[2] Ibid.



Four Poems by Mohammed Khair-Eddin

[Translated by Gaelle Raphael]









under my nails

jackal of the race of great wickedness

God dies without a spark a log in his arms

between my skin and me

rises high in the vine

and the visages

one by one

all thick

lacquers are poured

all over the walls

a thousand prisons


casbahs unearthed by a hurricane

the eye is missing here

a stiff fist

I cling to nothing

and suddenly the worms

of childhood

creep of green silts


I lie above

abrupt torrent

the lost rose

becomes tongue

then junk

hi hyena

I drink tonight the defended alcohols

fair word

unfair word

sit down

toads along my


eyeglasses shatter as stars


like folk dances

ah this South between my stiff legs

this mouth expelled from my saliva

women thus climb the hurdles



veins darkened without bearing

forgotten in some street

under a magician fresco

where to break is to abolish the laws


retractile sea not

simply city without city

and man without man

shadow falling into long chaps

a ship is going to leave the port of  my attachments

what a villain that one who talks about



to the black cat popular

for its intimate

and mysterious meow

i stop

be quiet



they prepare an ax for my language

they dethrone a king i crush his wealth

i am the black ox you are looking for

evaded from memories in rubble

and torture

whereas earth is no

more earth


no more stone

grilled by the cherguis


like dawn that makes your face shine


delirious woman


moaning beast


acrid standing in the thickness

of my entrails


chewing scrap

negative body

i devastate the rooms

they throw down the cargo of vices

sweat and heat


purulent gaze

i sow

sow again

the waste these


ancient swords




throughout a flight of angry stars

the gentleman feeds on cabinets

he ends with an apostrophe

bangs in the depths of another gentleman

behind me

at the bottom of me

standing over me

a satyr escaped from a cold book apparently

wrings my neck


an ember

hi hyena

drink me all

dawn will break in one of my wrinkles

nothing to be done

they go back up





give me your voice sir

I want to hear mine   

 a lightning


spiral that soon squeals

all the kids in hell




hyena give me your elastics

and let’s drink dawn

how double and fresh and slow dawn is

to your nostrils



*chergui: The east or southeast desert wind in Morocco.

 [From the collection Soleil arachnide Éditions du Seuil (1969)]





That one who’s going to be born

(I will call him Alexander!)

will have a bulletproof skin

and a skull of an onyx

and a lamentably beautiful sex

like the hurricane’s grey rose

like Guevara’s signature stamp

that one who was born

will die under the applause

of a crowd that makes love

with safes.

(Gift of the repressed poem)


[From the collection Soleil Arachnide Éditions du Seuil (1969)]



Swing Plow



When the sea salt seen and reviewed

judiciously by the ruin of your tongue—

hearts open to absent millipedes—

when the manure that feeds your life

when the woman and her retinue of lithobies

by these streets where delirium streams

—skulls shattered against the wall, knives unsheathed

by the silence gorged with laughter

from your head that retains nothing from me but my glimmer!...


When the city obstructs the sky with the guts

and the vomit of children killed

on the jaundice of my smile—


when I repress your fear

with a comma from which oozes your sour blood!...


When the country produces its death, standing

on it alone like pomegranate wasps…

when the storm lays down its law to the teapot…

when the wells stink, when najas

drink the mothers’ eye…


The South bursts into a thousand rapiers

ruffling your nerves…

and the swing plow exults on the flat stone where errs

a people hung to deleterious stars.


This people, do you know it? No! You have only

glimpsed it overturned by a car.

A woman, thin and beautiful, watched the worker

die… His calves brown and salient

against the light on the blood

that flowed on the pavement. The car shone

under the four o’clock sun.


The child of the rich played with the river’s mud.

He was happy. The whole summer abused his little and

golden body.


The child of the poor, who has never crossed the


sang and carved reeds. He paddled and fished

quietly. He was punished.


The one you love is a carrier of cloves

and nails and rings and night laughter;

a torrent of pebbles rolls in her clear eyes:

she is the indispensable dress of the day.


I know that your license slipped, nude woman, over you..

at the edge of the waves flapped like obese jellyfish.

I know that Time exists,

wearing sabers, sitting on the skin of bitter peoples.

and this brat who glows on your rampage,

o mother!


Snakes, scorpions, rats themselves,

all slobbered, stroked my humid wounds.


My destiny was debated under the grindstone, a crackling

barley was crushed.

And women sang. An old leper told

his memory to the road, “There is nothing beyond

that mountain”


Later, I discovered the world as it is.


[From the collection Résurrection des fleurs sauvages Éditions Stouky (1981)]





For Simonne and Jean Lacouture

Open island at the edge of ruins exhaling the grey laughter

of a day turned into sediments of sparks where all the

   dangers are articulated according to a rhythm of


throwing in my begging bowl the last organ pistole[1]

and the countless initials of stars chopped on

the eyes of the lepiotas. The dead memory

digs up and always brings back to itself the plowshare fashioned

in the blood of an ancient Osiris hastening toward

the stretched bed between darkness

and the bright sky of my retina. In the disturbed


the thermometer climbs my buccaneers of wrinkles, is juxtaposed with usurers of nomenclatures          so decried by

   the packed


clotted crowd

   by the resignation befallen to such a crime in a tightening of registers dates flasks rare poisons

when the trees intone the outcries of asylums shedding the world of the great rites fallen in the Acropolis whose underworld my silence eludes.

What’s to be regretted?

The enclosed sea beating like a heart we exhaust?

Or the smokestacks of this madrague perched on the back of a people unarmed but sure to annihilate its cynical king

who is nothing but the clown of laughter users?

The minaret, the crenellated red or purple diadem of the mountain range,

the tower of iron rust, lions,

the lions of red rock abandoned in an Andalusian courtyard,

then the only, the only real scream

of the dismembered dead,



cut up without celebration—hamadas of opprobrium, phosphate, sulfur,

and bitter repudiation!

This is the epoch surrounded by and pregnant with perils and obsequiousness! With ruts deleterious, bloody, pounding against my chest the sacramental abjection

where snort the hangmen.

This is the epoch

galvanized by a caricaturish process, stuffed with the feces of acolytes irremediably

   deep in debt, betrayals, pompous massacres, and denials,

slipped in the skin of silent kettledrums.

And far,

far away on a rock marveling at the storm’s



far away childhood reappears, black,

patrolling ceaselessly, ready to set

the most effective traps for this damned spring who


climbs to your forehead like a string of termites,

drills you,

deteriorates you,


far away under the monarchs’ ashen eye,



coat of arms,

annihilates you finally between a caress of


and a burst of machine gun,


far away,

There, the hemp tie!

Here, the wave of bullets!

Haloed with the hoarse snicker of the scimitar and the


Wandering no more in a cage its squalid


but in the quivering circles of radio waves

and on the roughness of a barracks yard

swearing hatred to the presumptuous sun.

The king, little king in truth, leaning to the worst

extremities, hiding under the guise of a reign that

committed suicide,

is hated,


because he was born of tribal stupidity and ambition,

of conspiracies perpetrated for long,

the king,

the king no less naked than the slobbery loach glued to me,

to you

my embittered people who count your corpses without howling.


[From the collection Ce Maroc! Éditions du Seuil (1975)] 


[1] A gold coin used in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

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