Sarah Riggs

From (She) HybridsWith the 1001 Nights

                                                                        –translation from the Arabic by Omar Berrada and Sarah Riggs (of the texts in italics)

With Night 256

She appears—

             and with what intensity—

a moon, she sways

             under the movement of the unknown

a willow branch

             telling tales of leaves

Her scent—ambergris

             a long attention

her gaze—a gazelle’s

             mockingly altered

Sorrow it seems

             and (she) would tell it

adores my heart

            and so we fall into lines

The moment she leaves

             with bated breath

It loves to return

             a (she)—waited time

Her gazing the moon recalled

             A trip returned under second

To me our nights

             Several and unfolding

In al Raqmatain


Each of us beholds a moon

              Gathered concretely in a curve

I with her eyes

            that of (she)

and she with mine

            hers (she) and so on

with Night 791

Your figure—bewildering

             Your gaze—blackest black

                         As in the one of the myriad poems

Your face—a glimmering stream

             Writing on the backs of eyelids

                          a billowy script

A heavenly image imprinted on my eye

              so much said there in the skies

                           could imprint

One half hyacinth, a third gemstone

             (she) was partial to fractional love in time

One-fifth musk, a sixth ambergris

              So it was said or sung

                          or held out toward the ends

You—a pearl—yet more luminous

              (she) had a half-mind, half-body

                           to let go of the gem metaphors

Eve never conceived one so beautiful

             Eve has not aged out, is still relevant

You’ve no equal in the gardens above

             Stop looking for equivalences

Torment if your passions will—

             Okay (she) is understanding this intensity

Forgive me, it’s your choice

             Lingering there in an eros of indecision

You’re longed for—the world’s ornament

             the affirmation, the assurance of (you)

Who could not desire—your face?

with Night 786

The girl appears—lively

             Here is a word that reminds you words are alive

Her cheeks brighten the sun

             A glow coming from those texts

                          (let’s not try to capture—let it be)

She came in a green gown—green

            (you can still see her approaching)

Like the branch hiding the pomegranate

             Have you ever counted how many seeds
                         are behind there?

I asked for her garment’s name

              the eros in translation

and she wryly responded

              words in a pitch of voyaging centuries

to pierce the beloved’s inmost heart

               perhaps with a writing instrument

frees a scent piercing to bitterness


Poet, visual artist, filmmaker, and translator, Sarah Riggs is the author of seven books of poetry in English, including most recently, The Nerve Epistle (Roof Books, 2021), Eavesdrop (Chax Press, 2020), Pomme & Granite (1913 Press, 2015), which won a 1913 Poetry Prize, and The Autobiography of Envelopes (Burning Deck, 2012).  She has translated or co-translated seven books of contemporary French poetry into English, including, most recently, Etel Adnan's TIME (Nightboat, 2019), recipient of the Griffin International Poetry Prize and the Best Translated Book Award in 2020.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Omar Berrada, with whom she has co-edited Another Room to Live In: 15 Contemporary Arab Poets in Translation, forthcoming with Litmus Press in Fall 2023. She hosts the Invitation to the Species podcast.

Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Three Fold recognizes, supports, and advocates for the sovereignty of Michigan's twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. We operate on occupied territories called Waawiiyaataanong, named by the Anishinaabeg and including the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewatomi (Potawatomi) peoples. We hold to commit to Indigenous communities in Waawiiyaataanong, their elders, both past and present, and future generations.