Poetry: Etel Adnan’s Final Voyage

Recounting a night in November which pays homage to the late Etel Adnan and the blooming sisterhood of six young women, Jolly’s poem traverses the landscape of history, intimacy, distance, and longing. Inspired in part by Adnan’s collection, Of Cities & Women, and newly created rituals of departure, the poet says it best here: “Everything is language.



Etel Adnan’s Final Voyage


On the final night
with the poet from Beirut,
from Anatolia, from Damascus,
from the infinite uncharted architectures
of exile, we six women, inspired towards oysters,
perform a bibliomancy in your book of cities. Recount
the seas on which we each were raised. Watch a fruit flambée
in a syrup of dates. Recite your final letter to Fawwaz. Come home
at last to Beirut: Woman is not death. The mystery of death moves through us.
We die but we are not death. I don’t know what we are. Outside,
someone has parked a car made from sheets of tin. Already,
one by one, our narrators have assigned this night
the structure of a dream. Everything is language.
It is 1992. A fever is lifting across the city.
The night of future memory
rises from us like
a steam.


Malvika Jolly

Malvika Jolly (b. 1993, Rouen) is a writer and translator. Her poetry, essays, and criticism are featured or forthcoming in Chicago magazine, Frontier Poetry, Liminal Transit Review, The Margins, MIZNA, Poetry Online, Poetry Northwest, South Side Weekly, and Violet, Indigo, Blue, Etc. She is a 2022 Visiting Artist-in-Residence at Compound Yellow and curates the New Third World, a poetry reading series inspired by the Non-Aligned Movement. To watch past reading of the New Third World, click here.

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