Today’s Africa
is truly beautiful!
It was only yesterday
— which already seems unreal —
that we celebrated the wedding
of its regained freedom
and married it
even more desirable than we dreamed
“dressed in the colour of life”
insolently young
flaunting flower and breasts of fervour
leading the trance
that gives soul back to body
light to eyes
inspired words to mouth
Its negritude finally upright
united in the recognition of blood
the only agreed colour of man
the orphan day
of an aborted origin

your pariah peoples
stunted branches of the original root
conceived in your silt
Your wandering peoples
in the frozen furnace of a pen
the scale of the Continent
Your blinded peoples
ploughing under the yoke
turning the millstone
that crushes
the fruit of their womb
Those envious people
that insidiously praised your youth
condemned you to die young
The heralded extinction of the species
will start with you

Knowledge does not forgive
It eats away at you
What would you be guilty of?
Of some oversight or other
or overstatement
To feel yourself burning with the words
you gave the unspeakable
but remain glued to your chair
while sipping a coffee?
Dare to say it:
even if innocent of evil
you are hostage to it
Can one give peace to torturers’ hearts,
change humanity?
Nobody has the answer
redemption, Redemption
you murmur
this unsolvable equation

It is not a matter of shoulders
or biceps
only the world’s burden
Those who are able to bear it
are often the frailest
They too are prone to fear
and sometimes driven to curse
the splendid Idea or Dream
that exposed them
to the fire of Gehenna
But while they may bend
they do not break
and when by frequent misfortune
they are slashed and mutilated
these human reeds
know that their bodies hacked
by treachery
will become as many flutes
that shepherds at daybreak
raise to their lips
to capture
and convey to the stars
the symphony of resistance

Extracts of Tribulations d’un rêveur attitré
Translated by Patrick Williamson, in The Parley Tree