Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Love Has its Reasons and Other Poems— Sylvie Kandé

Aug 17, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments



Love has its reasons

In truth, I only loved one man
and their countless faces I remember still
But all of a sudden, in a song, the slow
onslaught of a single emotion
Oh I’d so like him to come back to me
haling the semblance of me from a mire
then they’d stand there in the shadows
looking at me dance and laugh
But who among these men in fact…
And for what foibles…


Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew

The musk in the breeze
let us know he was approaching
A massive wave of applause
and the port came alive instantly
a hundred golden reflections shimmering
under the glare of its waste water

The rubberneckers no longer know
by dint of lingering!
blasé about work and bread!
amazed by this rarity!
if today is still yesterday or already tomorrow

It bends very low, the gangplank finally thrown out
under his fully-unclawed foot
while his high trunk
catches, as it were, the wind’s messages
Weighty monarch unaware of his fall
he enters the unknown amid unheard-of trumpeting
The crowd disperses then reforms
Silence chants laughter spits booing
Tears as big as two fists
drown his innocent eyes thought to be mean

We loved him all summer long and the months that followed
putting a bit aside for the right to inspect him
at his huge meal or better still at his grooming
sometimes in the barn where his carers shackled him
and sometimes under the oak where he rubbed his hide
nearly uprooting the old thing

But it so happened the war emptied the coffers
Deprived of wages and lodgings
his guards went off to buy bears
that some people in villages showed all turbaned
Then officials bestowed the encumbrance to a queen
who gifted it to a king
who sent it to an obligated vassal
to the east where the cold hashes up to the stones
Embarked on the Rhine under a hail of poles
the beast vomits green, pisses red and trembles

a spray of water that shoots up into the stiff,
screeching air
abyss foaming between
blocks of ice
that devours the big emaciated body
and also catches in its dizziness
the floating solitude of a snow bird

We were witnesses to his missteps
Never would we have teased his vast ear
nor his rump with a hook or Moorish scimitar!
To your ropes the ferryman says
By God let’s not let the carcass sink
without taking the teeth

Ivory we then used to make
fine marquetry
smooth, pious statues,
beautiful harpsichord keys


The drawing

To the Mulata de Córdoba

She’ll pay dearly

It’s that the arching of her back filled the city with envy
and as soon as she set up shop in the little market
hands would scratch the fruit she had on display
Her asymmetrical gaze knew fate
and when she received in her chamber of secrecies
casting cowrie shells and little bones on a silver platter
the city kept the restless birds of its hands
on its lap – ever so well-behavedly

She had cost him dearly

Savannah-free since that night when
cradled in her crotch and suckling at her breast
he had in the instant of a thunderbolt
in sobs under a canopy of stars
to foreswear the holy books and even God the almighty

But she would pay dearly

Too proud now to open the door for him
no matter he crawls or threatens
But he knew high-ranking people had the governor’s ear
Let’s torment the witch!
How best wrench a confession out of her
the chary city washed its hands

An oven, this jail!
She observes her guard’s palms:
she reads the truth on the criss-cross
sweaty lines and tells him straight out
She needs chalk right now he finds it
Then she draws a wooden door on the floor
the veins of the wood
and the door handle
They said goodbye with a wave of the hand


Also, read a Hindi story by Mamta Kalia  , translated into English by Rituparna Mukherjee, and published in The Antonym

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Sylvie Kandé

Sylvie Kandé

Sylvie Kandé, a French-Senegalese writer, is the author of three collections of poetry: Gestuaire (Gallimard/nrf, 2016; 2017 Louise Labé Prize); La Quête infinie de l’autre rive. Épopée en trois chants (Gallimard, Continents Noirs, 2011; the 2017 Lucienne Gracia-Vincent Prize under the auspices of the Saint-John Perse Foundation), published in English as The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore. An Epic in Three Cantos (Wesleyan U. Press, 2022). Lagon, lagunes-Tableau de mémoire (Gallimard, Continents noirs, 2000), a volume of poetic prose with a postface by Édouard Glissant. She is also co-translator of a collection of short stories by Waanyi Australian novelist Alexis Wright: Le Pacte du serpent arc-en-ciel (Actes Sud, 2002).

Patrick Williamson

Patrick Williamson

Patrick Williamson is an English poet and translator. Most recent poetry collections: Traversi (English-Italian, Samuele Editore, 2018), Beneficato (SE, 2015), Gifted (Corrupt Press, 2014), Nel Santuario (SE, 2013; Menzione speciale della Giuria in the XV Concorso Guido Gozzano, 2014). Editor and translator of The Parley Tree, Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World (Arc Publications, 2012) and translator notably of Max Alhau (France), Tahar Bekri (Tunisia), Gilles Cyr (Quebec), as well as Italian poets Guido Cupani and Erri de Luca. Recent translations in Transference, Metamorphoses, The Tupelo Quarterly, and poems in The Black Bough, The Fortnightly Review notably. Longstanding collaborator with artists’ book publisher Transignum, member of the editorial committee of La Traductière, and founding member of transnational literary agency Linguafranca.


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