The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

Antoine-Roger Bolamba: 1 Poem Published in Translation

Poems by Antoine-Roger Bolamba (Congo)

Translated by Yvonne Reddick (UK)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 37.





Bamboula [i]


An eagle of steel has broken forgetfulness.

My apocalyptic words

have a sugary smile.

My sandy exploits

mock incendiary ideas.

My elephant-hide courage

challenges fraud.


Meaning disappears in a pool –

the sweat of grief weeps for it.

The shades of the dead

crackle like flames.

The lost have only their idols left,

who open wide their huge marble eyes.

Redemption has broken its oath.

Between hell’s knees

the sword of sin

blazes with rage.

Seductions with shining loincloths

are the prey of idleness.

The gauze-winged wind whistles.

before my ear’s window.

The villages advance

with quickened steps

to save the world’s treasures

from disaster.

The spirit sticks

to the narrow limits of reality.

The raised dagger

stolen from sowers of good words

slowly enters the brain of space –

the sowers who






at us.

The towns drag their sandals

and carry the weight

of hunger in their bellies.

Here is the essence

passing by way of fantasy

at the hour of dusk

in the countryside,

where parrots jabber,

messengers of the baobab’s strength.

Give me solar muscles,

thighs of forest,

a stinging kiss of pepper,

the fleshy lips of sleep.

Give me the damp air of butterflies,

desire’s frenetic belly,

the fragrance of memory,

the rainy season’s cool.


Bamboula –

the rat grapples with the bark of night.

Bamboula –

the oarsman-bird

who spits phenomena –

bamboula bamboula –

the sorcerer-man

who hunts the scent of flesh –

bamboula oho! bamboula –

the landscape

that has fallen apart by chance

has only one way out:

saving its skin.

[i] A bamboula is a drum made of sections of giant bamboo with hide stretched over the ends, and also the dance that this instrument accompanies. In French, un bamboula refers to this traditional bamboo drum, but is sometimes used as a pejorative term for a black person; une bamboula can mean the dance performed to the bamboo drum or a wild party.

About the Poet and Translator

Antoine-Roger Bolamba (1913–2002) was the first Secretary of State and Minister of Information in the first Congolese government. He was a journalist with the newspaper, La Voix du Congo. He also published short stories and poetry.

Dr. Yvonne Reddick is a Research Fellow in Modern English and World Literatures at the University of Central Lancashire. She is a visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, University of Liverpool and was co-editor of The Apple Anthology

Image: "Elephant" by Justin Ennis.