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Translated from Arabic

The City of Belkhouja*

He dips his hand into the water of the city, clenching his fingers on its colors.

He rolls its sounds and breaths into cigarettes; kneads its smells and tastes into bread; sprinkles the music of its fissures onto his silence; drinks the nectar of its secret wrinkles.

Whenever he wants he rests his head against its domes, its ages; places it came from and others it would reach, peering wide-eyed into its towering depth.

You can't catch water with a fist, they say. And yet, no sooner does he unclench his fist than glowing jewels appear before their very eyes.

Those jewels standing on their own while referring to other things; the thing itself and its mobile architecture, its endless possibilities.

Is it possible that you discovered the way to Maram† before I did? I ask. He smiles pointing at

a word of light and shadow, pulse and distance wherein he strongly blows his painted sentence.

Blow he does, not only in substance but also in imagination, in the flesh of freedom, in space too.


stops the artist looking for himself

in the streets of the city.

The city finds itself

in the streets of the artist.

* A celebrated Tunisia painter.
† Maram is a disguised city living in the poets' fantasy. Perhaps it is a desired city; it may also be an undesirable one.


Fethi Gasmi, better known by his pen name Adam Fethi, is one of the most celebrated poets of dissent in Tunisia. Born in 1957 in the south of the country, his poetry of commitment, written under the siege of the political repression in the 1970s and 1990s, strived to maintain the freedom of thought and speech.
Channelling his protest in several songs made his popularity among students.
He is the author of Ughniat al-Naqabi al-Fasih (Song of the Eloquent Unionist, 1986),  Anachid li Zahrat al-Ghubar (Songs to the Dust Rose, 1991) and Nafikhu al-Zujaj al-A'maa (The Blind Glassblower, 2011), which won the prestigious Abou Kacem Chebbi Prize.