I love you more in temperate climates
away from the killing sun
and the long and boring Sundays.
I see us here, on the other banks of life
on the sands of the coastlines
among the grasses of the gardens.
We plant roses in the illuminated paths
and cultivate kisses on the trains arriving
from the happy cities;
we pick them fresh from the rain dampening
our footsteps, yet our footsteps remain light
and the paths remain lit
and the trains arrive on time
and you love me more
and you do not delay, or forget
the name of the flower I love.
Notes on this poem
Fatma Krouma’s poetry leans headfirst into love. Although she writes of flowers and kisses, it is not a sterile, lightweight love that she is concerned with. It is the type that’s apt to leave the heart riven, the self irrevocably transformed, and throughout Krouma’s poetry there is an urgency to let us know this. ‘How do I tell them’ asks the speaker in ‘Hadramawt’, ‘without losing my voice’. Elsewhere, in ‘Exile’, the speaker describes her heart as passing the extremes of the day ‘at distant addresses, between the tree and its bark’.
These are pressure-filled poems, rendered in high definition. Krouma’s selectiveness of imagery is startlingly sharp and, therefore, so are her meanings – layered as they are. When working from the bridge translations written by John Peate, I was astounded by how rarely I chose to make adaptations. It became, instead, a process informed more by conversations with Krouma about her intentions as a poet than the interpretation of any specific phrase. Gathering what I could, I would return to the texts, highlight a single word and search absently for its superior – so often with a lump in my throat.
I was, and remain, in awe of Fatma Krouma’s poems for the tenderness they exhibit – the ways that their brave vulnerability holds a mirror up to what breaks most irreparably in us. Working with her was an incredibly illuminating experience, one that transformed my own sensibilities as a poet and translator. For this, I am grateful.
– Victoria Adukwei Bulley