Scenes from Carthage


This morning I plunged
into the arms of death.
I immersed myself in wisdom.
In the silence
the secret
the mystery
of Carthage.
The roots of a palm tree bury a Tophet.
In the shadow of a palm grove
lay the tombs of dead children
A female cat, in a hieratic pose
at the far end of the site
stares fixedly at me.
The Punic palm trees
are rigidly penitent.
In the movement of the ground
the stones do battle
with the roots.
Both : conquerors and conquered are intertwined.
Fig trees, date palms, or immense jerids
are prostrated towards ground.
The most ancient site of
Phoenician conquests welcomes one of their
They bequeath to others
their vain battles.
Young infant boys
in their thousands
have received a stele in their memory.
The girls do not measure up;
they do not appease the cannibal sources.
When the town was in danger
cruel kings
weighed upon its conscience
the weight of an elephant.
The sign of the goddess-mother
Tanit haloed by a lunar crescent
watches over its grief.
The same female cat
a real ancestor
appears at the other end of the site.
This time she smiles at me.
When I lifted my head
she had disappeared.


Extract from Le rire de l’eau (Le Noroît, Montréal, 2004) 

Translated from french by Christine Tipper

Nadine Ltaif is a Lebanese poet, living in Montreal. Her first book, Les Métamorphoses d'Ishtar was published by Guernica in 1987. She holds a Master's in French literature from the University of Montreal. Three books of her poetry, Le livre des dunes, Le rire de l'eau and Ce que vous ne lirez pas are published in Montreal by Le Noroît. Entre les fleuves (Changing Shores), is translated by Christine Tipper and is published by Guernica.