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
I saw you lying on the poisonous gorse
Tearing your skin and its furtive shadows
Creaming off your sleeping
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
Before my tongue drowns in a crevasse
Take the road
Make your way
From my head to my toes
The grumpy mare of my spine
Spell out the name of my secret birth
All in all
Under the tent of pointless expectation
Grab hold of the stretches where
The dirty periodic bubbles die
Make a cutting remark a blue scribble
Any word or phrase
Look I am undressing
Comma by comma