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absence. displacement. by Etel Adnan

absence. displacement.
Etel Adnan
Translated by Sarah Riggs

absence. displacement.
waiting. then comes rejection.
anger follows. shame makes
the beds

the shadows jostle between
the walls of the scarcely visited cities.
time nips at our heels we are
afraid to arrive last

I love the rain when it
wraps me like a
river. grafts me to the clouds.
I share in the properties
of the sky. I grow
like a tree


Have you ever wrestled with the shadows of yourself. Have you ever wandered the cities of your lost loves, or the ghost towns of your aches. And what have you found?

Sometimes I feel I am being chased out of my life and into the world, running towards the unknown with my heart in my throat, afraid I’ll finally arrive at who I’m meant to be, and if I’m ready.

I think about the inexorable march of time that we can’t escape from. Do we ever really belong anywhere? Can I grow roots in this life?

Time by Etel AdnanSOURCE

This poem appeared in Time by Etel Adnan, translated by Sarah Riggs, published by Nightboat Books, 2019. Shared here with profound gratitude.


“On October 27, 2003, Adnan received a post card of a palm tree from the poet Khaled Najar, who she had met in the late seventies in Tunisia, sparking a collection of poems that would unspool over the next decade in a continuous discovery of the present moment. Originally written in French, these poems collapse time into single crystallized moments then explode outward to take in the scope of human history. In Time, we see an intertwining of war and love, coffee and bombs, empathetic observation and emphatic detail taken from both memory and the present of the poem to weave a tapestry of experience in non-linear time.”


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Comments (2)

  • Wayne A Gilbert

    love this elegant melancholy poem–and your marginalia, as always opens it up further for me, esp the “ghost towns of your aches.” thanks. \


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