Poems by Antoine-Roger Bolamba (Congo)
Translated by Yvonne Reddick (UK)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 37.
An eagle of steel has broken forgetfulness.
My apocalyptic words
have a sugary smile.
My sandy exploits
mock incendiary ideas.
My elephant-hide courage
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
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
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.
the rat grapples with the bark of night.
who spits phenomena –
bamboula bamboula –
who hunts the scent of flesh –
bamboula oho! bamboula –
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.
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 http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/apple-anthology.html
Image: "Elephant" by Justin Ennis.