from The Manifestations of the Voyage

my house’s stairway is seized
with vertigo.
Matter having forsaken its laws,
we land in hell,
ascending to heaven.
Shadows move along ladders
under the silence of ordinary things
there is another silence:
it belongs neither to the leaves nor to the

                                       with a crown of birds circling
                                       a child is running in an abandoned
                                       the stairway takes the measure of
                                        its own emptiness

I myself am the stairway that
Time has used in its
funeral course

                                        wheels lift water in the
                                                gardens of Hama
                                            and come down
                                                not waiting for the river
                                                    to put out the fire

Here we are left with
the river Seine and Paris’s poisons.
I prefer gardens where
linden trees get ready for
a lunar voyage

The stairway that separates my
room from my memory
whispers in my ear . . .

I am not at the mercy of men
since trees live in my fantasies
 men and trees long for fire
 and call for the rain
I love rains which carry desires

Between one airplane and
space is disoriented
stars sneak into holes and brides
go naked to wells

their innocence wanes under
our eyes
You and I are made from a
worm-eaten wood

                                               The Word has sunk
                                                 we are left with no cry   gesture
                                                                             or gaze
                                                 silence to us is forbidden.

We are threatened neither by life
                                            nor by death
                                                nor forced to admire the Spring

I found earth-castles on the edge
of the desert’s torrents
I took their marble stairs
but could not find my way either
up or down
then I understood that I was
in a state of non-reason
and non-madness
and that the gardens of Andalusia
were standing
ready to die.
Two cities               Two tears
                                        Let insanity keep between
                                                             its skirts
                                                              within its black eyes
                                      the fright of my adolescence
                                   and the nocturnal walk on the hills:
                                       which hill?
                                I mean the kingdom that a man carries
                                         in his gut when
                                                 his love’s fulfilled.

                                Two cities which are neither Beirut
                                        nor Damascus
                                two tears: neither of alcohol nor of
                                        Yes there has been a truck
                                              and a blue-eyed woman
                                              from Russia
                                              —grey olive tree—
                                I was a butterfly caught by
                                              a fire:
                                        neither the day’s not the night’s
                                              but the
                                              incandescence that radiates
                                              from the body like a
                                              receding sickness,
                               Let tombs stay open!

The stairway which leads to my
borrows its metals from Babylon
The Prophet’s Ascension
had two movements
we fell into whirlpools
of mud
and the wind followed his horse
A tempest went after
the sun’s steps
The Prophet swam through waves
of clouds
a river of gold carried his
and away from the sun he reached Paradise
a Paradise made of light.
The stairway which leads to my room
leads to an observatory
I own two telescopes
to observe stars and black holes
and take mechanized stairs
which advance with no advance
my hair spins with
Illegitimate is this linden tree
which shakes by my door
let us get ready for Hell!
Cursed be messengers
tossing about water’s tranquility
and building forest fences
Oh that the wind go quicker than us!
that we be smothered by light!

This linden tree standing by my door
weights heavy on my days
I will finally marry it
and we shall bring children
condemned to terror
this tree looks at me
with insistence:
It will be kept waiting
until Time’s end.

Etel Adnan, from “The Manifestations of the Voyage” from The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage. Copyright © 1990 by Etel Adnan.  Reprinted by permission of Post-Apollo Press.
Source: The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage (The Post-Apollo Press, 1990)