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Joyce Mansour tr. Carol Martin-Sperry

Joyce Mansour was born in England in 1928, grew up in Egypt and wrote in French. She had an intense and complex emotional life, touched by death at an early age. Her mother died from cancer when she was fifteen, followed by the death of her husband, also from cancer, after only six months of marriage when she was eighteen. She married her French-speaking second husband eighteen months later. Mansour and her family had a rich and cultured life in Cairo, which was brought to a sudden end after Colonel Nasser came to power. After the Suez crisis in 1956 she and her Jewish family had to flee Egypt within twenty-four hours. They settled in Paris where she successfully combined the role of a typical wife and mother of two sons with that of a leading surrealist writer, moving in the artistic bohemian circles of post-war Paris. She was a close friend of the surrealist Andre Breton, who supported her work, spreading the word about her in his circle and beyond. She is, however, unknown in the English-speaking world. I would like to make her known by publishing a selection of her poems. Her poetry has recently been revived in France with the publication of her collected works and a biography written by her daughter-in-law.


Carol Martin-Sperry is a French literary translator whose works include six screenplays by Jean Cocteau, four art books on Rubens, Cezanne, Seurat and Daumier, 100 poems by Joyce Mansour, two film subtitles and 19 Bob Dylan songs. She has worked as a psychotherapist, serving the French-speaking community as well as the English, for 35 years. She has been a media consultant in print and broadcasting and has written several articles for the press. She was educated at the Lycee Francais de Londres and University College, University of London. She is a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, with an MA in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy from Roehampton University. She is the author of three books connected with her work. The most recent is “Sexual Healing: Stories and Insights from the Therapist’s Couch”.


 

LET ME LOVE YOU


Let me love you.

I love the taste of your thickened blood

Held at length in my toothless mouth.

Its heat scalds my throat.

I love your sweat.

I love to stroke your armpits

That drip with joy.

Let me love you

Let me lick your closed eyes

Let me pierce them with my pointed tongue

And fill their hollows with my triumphant spittle.

Let me blind you.

 

YOU LIKE TO LIE IN OUR UNMADE BED


You like to lie in our unmade bed.

Our stale sweat does not disgust you.

Our sheets sullied by forgotten dreams

Our cries that echo in the dark room

All this thrills your hungry body.

Your ugly face lights up at last

For yesterday’s desires are tomorrows dreams.

 

YOUR BREATH IN MY MOUTH


Your breath in my mouth

Your dry hands with pointed nails

Cannot free my crimson throat

Crimson with pain with pleasure

Your purple lips suck my blood

And my waxen flesh will always tempt you

While my eyes remain closed.

 

I WANT TO BE NAKED


I want to be naked in your singing eyes

I want you to see me crying out in pleasure.

May my limbs folded under too heavy a weight

Push you towards impious acts.

May the smooth hair on my surrendered head

Catch on your nails that curve in fury.

May you stand erect blind and believing

Looking down on my plucked body.

 

I SAW YOU EMBRACED BY THE WIND

I saw you embraced by the wind

Moistened by the rough tongue of desire

Your united milky breasts

Like the reeds intoxicated with the delicate water

Like twins

I saw you lying on the poisonous gorse

Tearing your skin and its furtive shadows

Creaming off your sleeping

Passions

And I, like a tree painful in its nakedness

Alone, flattened against an evil sky

I was merely a poor clown with a dishevelled heart.

 

FAINT AFTER A LONG SEPARATION


Quick

Before my tongue drowns in a crevasse

Take the road

Make your way

From my head to my toes

Straddle

The grumpy mare of my spine

Spell out the name of my secret birth

All in all

Hemlock

Quick

Under the tent of pointless expectation

Grab hold of the stretches where

The dirty periodic bubbles die

Furtively

Make a cutting remark a blue scribble

Any word or phrase

Look I am undressing

Comma by comma

Full stop.

 






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