“The Key,” and “Tattoo:” Two Poems by Ines Abassi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

“The Key,” and “Tattoo:” Two Poems by Ines Abassi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Ines Abassi

Ines Abassi


The Key

The last key I carried with me

is hanging down alone from the key chain

like a hanged body in the open air.

The key of the house that is no longer our home

and that will not be our home after today

is stained with the rust of memories

and the dust of the desert that we left behind us.

And the house?

Perhaps you will repaint its walls that absorbed our screams

and the sweat of our tired words.

Oh, how much the words became fragmented  between us

and blocked the colour-radiated light!

Your back is bare, and so are my hands.

Light separates us,

and so do the ideas.

The door doesn’t separate us,

and so do the roads.

However, your bare back separates us.

I needed lots of tears and poems.

Blue bruises taught other poems their days

and I needed the heartbreak that taught my heart with a black bruise.

I needed all our words that were suffocated

with the room’s rotten air, that was heavy with our breath,

anger, and a lot of lies.

You braided the loop of lies

and I untwisted it

with the patience of a woman blinded by love for years.

I threw the key of the house that is no longer our home

and that will not be our home after today

in the junk pile of memories.



آخر مفتاح حملتُه معي،

يتدلى وحيدًا من علاّقة المفاتيح

مثل جسد مشنوق في العراء

مفتاحُ البيت الذي لم يعُد بيتنا

الذي لنْ يكون بيتنَا بعد اليوم

يعلُوه صَدأ الذِّكريات

وغبارُ الصحراء التي خلفناها وراءنا


ربَّما ستعيد طلاء جدارنه التي تشرّبت صراخنا

وعرق كلماتنا المُتعبة

الكلمات… كم تشظّت بيننا

وحجبت الضوء المشّع بالألوان

ظهرك عار ويدي عارية

الضوء يفصل بيننا

الأفكار تفصل بيننا

البابُ لا يفصل بيننا

الطُّرقات لا تفصل بيننا

أما ظهرك العاري ..فيفصل بيننا

احتجت لدموع وقصائد كثيرة

قصائد أخريات علّمت أيامهن كدمات زرقاء

احتجت للغصة التي علّمت قلبي بكدمة سوداء

احتجت لكلّ كلماتنا المختنقة

بهواء الغرفة الفاسد، الثقيل بأنفاسنا

الثقيل بالغضب والكثير من الكذب

أنشوطة الأكاذيب ضفرتَها أنت

وفككتُها أنا

بصبر امرأة أعماها الحب سنواتٍ

مفتاح البيت الذي لم يعد بيتنا

الذي لن يكون بيتنا بعد اليوم

ألقيت به مع كراكيب الذكريات.


Originally published on June 1, 2020 in the online London-based Arabic newspaper Qoraish Newspaper.





Soon in another life,

maybe after forty,

I will get a “tattoo;”

wachm in Arabic, which is more elegant.

I will leaf through the tattoo drawing notebook slowly and flirtatiously.

I may choose a tattoo of scorpion, which I was not,

or a snake tattoo,

or even a spider tattoo.

I can also choose a word.

The needle may insert such words as “betrayal” or “indifference”

into my flesh,

or a word greater than “betrayal” or “indifference;”

a longer word that needs more space.

I will completely forget my idea of trading salt for books

at the doors of Timbuktu.

This was an old dream for an older life,

which I have always dreamed of.

I will forget that it was possible for me

in another life

in Timbuktu

to be in a cold room

surrounded by silk, fantasy, and good company.

But I am here, now, today,

at this time.

I want ripped jeans on the knees

and a white shirt

which half of its upper buttons were lost.

Although I want to learn playing an electronic guitar,

I don’t want leather bracelets around my wrist.

I just want to learn playing

a music that breaks windowpanes

and dissipates pain.

I want to strum my pain

and to scream with my ache.

My wound is like the African rift,

extending deeply into earth.

It doesn’t heal.

Perhaps a music with all this noise

might break up the glass around my soul

and dissipate my pain.



في حياة أخرى…قريبا

ربما بعد الأربعين

“سأحصل على “تاتو

وشم …بالعربية..

الكلمة أكثر أناقة بالعربية

سأقلب دفتر الصُّور ببطء ودلال

قد أختار

وشم العقرب التي لم أكنها

أو وشم أفعى

أو حتى وشما لعنكبوت

يمكنني أيْضًا اختيار كلمة

قد تتغرز الإبرة في لحمي

بكلمة مثل




كلمة أكبر من الخيانة اللامبالاة

كلمة أطول

تحتاج لمساحة أكبر

سأنسى تماما فكرتي عن مقايضة الملح بالكتب

على أبواب تمبكتو

كان هذا حلما قديما لحياة أقدم

طالما حلمتُ بها

سأنسى بأنه كان من الممكن لي

في حياة أخرى

في تمبكتو

كان من الممكن أن أكون في غرفة باردة

يحيط بي الحرير والخيال والصحبة الطيّبة

لكنني هنا الآن اليم

في هذا الزمن

أريد بنطال جينز ممزقا عند الركبتين

وقميصا أبيض

ضاعت نصف أزراره العلوية

ورغم أنني أريد

تعلم العزف على جيتار إلكتروني

إلا أنني…

لا أريد أساور جلدية حول معصمي

أريد فقط أن أتعلم عزف

موسيقى تكسر زجاج النوافذ

وتفتت الألم …

أريد أن أعزف ألمي

أن أصرخ بألمي


مثل الصدع الافريقي …

ممتد طويلا في عمق الأرض

ولا يلتئم

ربما… موسيقى بكل هذا الصخب

قد تكسر الزجاج حول روحي ….

وتفتت ألمي.


Originally published on June 1, 2020 in the online London-based Arabic newspaper Qoraish Newspaper.


Ines Abassi’s Bio:

Ines Abassi (or Ines Al Abbasi) (b. 1981) is a Tunisian literary journalist, poet, children’s writer, short story writer, novelist, and translator. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Secrets of the Wind (2004), Archive of the Blind (2007) winner of the CREDIF prize, Tunisia, and A Whoop of Kohl (2015). She also published a narrative travel book based on her six-month residency in Seoul titled Tales of the Korean Scheherezade (2009), a short story collection Hashasha (Fragility) (2013), and two novels Ichkeul (2016) and Menzel Bourguiba (2018). Her work has been published in numerous Tunisian and Arabic literary magazines in print and online, and has been translated into English, French, Korean, Danish, and Swedish.



About aliznaidi

Ali Znaidi (b.1977) is a Tunisian poet, writer, and translator living in Redeyef, a mining town in southwest Tunisia.
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3 Responses to “The Key,” and “Tattoo:” Two Poems by Ines Abassi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

  1. jmsabbagh says:

    Keep the gooe work , excellent expression poems.

  2. aliznaidi says:

    Thank you very much for your ongoing support.

  3. Pingback: Friday Finds: Ines Abassi’s ‘The Key’ – ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly

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