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)