Léopold Sédar Senghor – Elegy Of Midnight

 

Summer, splendid Summer, nourishing the Poet on the milk of your light
I who grew up like the wheat of spring, which made me drunk
From green water, from the green steaming in the gold of Time
Ah! no longer can I tolerate the midnight light.
The splendor of such honors resembles a Sahara,
An immense void, with neither erg nor rocky plateau,
With no grass, no twinkling eye, no beating heart.
Twenty-four hours a day like this, and my eyes are wide open
Like Father Cloarec’s, crucified on a boulder by the Joal pagans
Who worshipped snakes. In my eyes the Portuguese lighthouse
Turns round and round, twenty-four hours a day,
A precise and restless mechanism, until the end of time.

I jumped out of bed, a leopard about to be snared,
A sudden gust of Simoom filling my throat with sand.
Ah! if I could just collapse in the dung and blood, in the void.
I turn around among my books watchilng me with their deep eyes
Six thousand lamps burning twenty-four hours a day.
I stand up lucid, strangely lucid. And I am handsome,
Like the one-hundred-runner, like the rutting black stallion
From Mauritania. I carry in my blood a river of seeds
That can fertilize all the plains of Byzantium
And the hills, the austere hills.
I am the Lover and the locomotive with a well-oiled piston.

Her sweet strawberry lips, her thick stone body,
Her secret softness ripe for the catch, her body
A deep field open to the black sower.
The Spirit germinates under the groin, in the matrix of desire
The sex is one antenna mong many where flashing messages are exchanged.
Love music no longer can cool me down, nor the holy rhythm of poetry.
Against this despair, Lord, I need all my strength
—A soft dagger in the heart as deep as remorse.
I am not sure of dying. If that was Hell: the lack of sleep
This desert of the Poet, this pain of living, this dying
From not being able to die, the agony of shadows, this passion
For death and light like moths on hurricane lamps at night,
In the horrible rotting of virgin forests.

Lord of light and shadows,
You, Lord of the Cosmos, let me rest in Joal-of-the-Shades,
Let me be born again in the Childhood Kingdom full of dreams,
Let me be the shepherd of my shepherdess on the Dyilôr tanns
Where dead men flower, let me burst out applauding
When Téning-Ndyaré and Tyagoum-Ndyaré enter the circle
And let me dance like the Athlete to the drum of this year’s Dead.
This is only a prayer. You known my peasant’s patience.
Peace will come, the Angel of dawn will come, the singing of birds
Never heard before will come, the light of dawn will come.
I will sleep at dawn, my pink doll in my arms,
My green- and gold-eyed doll with a voice so marvelous,
It is the very tongue of poetry.

Translated from the French by Melvin Dixon

(from Nocturnes, 1961)

burning crooked roses

coyotes yip !

as i walk through baby cyclones

up the stairs to the sky

as she remained

on sweating rocking horse

deeply sea pearl glint in eye,

oh is there anything else other

than immortality,

reward and wisdom,

have i become the dog

that runs through muddy rivers

to wash the gasoline of brutality off,

i will never see an algae

covered stone coffin,

horse keeps rocking

travelling this

unremarkable earth machine,

stairs behind me

as are leaking babies

and crushed beercans,

no cloud castle

old vagrants song rings softly,

weeping in whitman’s embrace

i have left human shape

finger shadows reach

as frozen spider would,

my once and fevered love

rides on

poetry , poem

a file cabinet on the east bound state road

six drawers of the universe

filled with life he could not leave behind

twenty year commitment gone,

thick neck and morning lit face

parked up station wagon

silver leaf scars rusting

doors with rattling windows,

behind a marriage gone like perspiration,

a third from the sun creature

pushed into the office

low humbled

shoulders shrugged into body,

grasped that file cabinet

dragged it to the door lifting carpet tiles,

tailgate flipped open,

company property someone shouted

another mentioned 911,

all other lives abandoned

this was all he had,

one last look

eyes like roses on granite,

pulled away

smearing rubber traces,

freeway surrounded by suburban houses

urban outcrops to his canyon

that became a void,

cassette music kept the corpses away

those corpses of the past

that seem to claw and linger,

a siren

was it for him,

tailgate flipped lock busted

as file cabinet slid progressively out,

braking hard

it dropped on blacktop

engine stalled

a dead bronze beetle

car horns swarmed about,

grunting stood upright that grey oblong

last piece of life

scuffed and scraped,

small key on his chain unlocked top drawer

took out a warm shaken bottle of whiskey

and the gun he kept here since his wife

became afraid,

sucked in air

climbed on top and sat crosslegged,

heaven had shadows that would not conceal him

as he waited,

bullhorn call on gentle breeze

curved outline of the day a flat surface,

and a smile so human appeared