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Three poems

by Alain Mabanckou
Translated from French by
Nancy Naomi Carlson

[j’emprunte à l’oiseau]

 

j’emprunte à l’oiseau

l’incertitude du prochain buisson

 

je ne sais quel temps il fera

de l’autre côté de la migration

mais le monde s’ouvre à moi

riche de carrefours

 

que l’envol me porte

me porte encore loin de la clameur

loin de la basse-cour

loin des coqs dressés pour le combat

 

 

 

 

 

 

[quelle ombre vient de nouveau]

 

quelle ombre vient de nouveau

ternir le ciel apaisé

en ce jour où le martinet

entonne le chant de la réconciliation

 

je dis au vent

de remuer les feuilles mortes

de ployer les branches des filaos

d’essorer la robe de la voûte céleste

d’étouffer les plaintes de la roche

 

 

 

 

 

 

[au deuil de la flore]

 

au deuil de la flore

il faut rajouter les essences piétinées par le bétail

les nasses qui ne capturent plus d’anguilles

l’éternuement de la terre aride

les antres habités par des fauves squelettiques

[I adopt from the bird]

 

I adopt from the bird

uncertainty about the next bush

 

I don’t know what the weather will bring

on migration’s other side

but the world opens to me

rich in crossroads

 

let my wings carry me

carry me farther away from the hue and cry

away from the barn

away from the cocks trained to fight

 

 

 

 

 

 

[what shadow comes once more]

 

what shadow comes once more

to tarnish the serene sky

on this day when the swift

begins to sing of reconciliation

 

I tell the wind

to toss dead leaves

to bend filao boughs

to wring the gown of the heavenly vault

to muffle the moans of rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

[to the loss of flora]

 

to the loss of flora

we must add the species trampled by cattle

the traps no longer catching eels

the sneezing of arid soil

the dens where skeletal wild beasts dwell

 

 

 

 

 


From Tant que les arbres s’enracineront dans la terre, Montréal, Mémoire d’encrier, 2004.

Image by Yusuke Nagaoka.

Alain Mabanckou, from Congo-Brazzaville, is considered one of Francophone Africa’s most prolific contemporary writers. A finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, featured in the 2016 Puterbaugh Festival, and honored by the Académie Française, he is a professor of literature at UCLA. http://www.alainmabanckou.com/bio.html
Translator
Nancy Naomi Carlson has authored ten titles (six translated). A recipient of two literature translation grants from the NEA, she was a finalist for both the “Best Translated Book Award” and the CLMP Firecracker Poetry Award. CARGO HOLD OF STARS: COOLITUDE, her translations of Khal Torabully, is forthcoming this year from Seagull Books. She was awarded the rank of Chevalier in the Order of the French Academic Palms. For more information, please visit www.nancynaomicarlson.com.