Three Poems by Paul Laraque

BOMB 90 Winter 2005
090 Winter 2005 1024X1024

Small Testament

Translated by Rosemary Manno

My love
You came at the moment I had slain the final idol
The undergrowth of despair was in your look
Where my never defaced image dwells
Sad angel lovely as danger
You are the miracle of water in a desert of thirst
And your womb the crown of a refound empire
I’ve been living in the only hope of men
Who leave today behind so tomorrow can be born
One day I’ll be in front of my people
To forge happiness out of the weapons of poverty
The mice of anguish are gnawing at the nights awaiting
Black hands unfurl the banner at dawn
The land will finally belong to those who’ve worked it
A child has become the center of life
I want to appear at his tribunal
And hear said
You lived like a man

 
There are Words
Translated by Jack Hirschman

To Angela Davis judged
For the double crime of being
A communist and a black woman.

There are words that burn
Like torches in the forest of the night
There are words that can ford rivers
Words that open the doors of History
Like a key
There are words that can string the bow of revolution
And arm the peoples with the arrows of victory

There are words sweet on our lips
As the mouth of a woman
And which strike our heart like the spear of love
White Christ of black Virgin
The hangmen slog away at raising your cross
They want to cut the rose of hope
But they can’t extinguish the thicket of your voice

There are words
That cure the ills
Other words bring us
There are words
Sharp as knives
Action alone makes the dreams of poetry real
And from now through you real life is here

 
On a Root of Wind
Translated by Jack Hirschman

What goods the shield of your breasts
When my arrow brings you down like a vulture
The breath of the great woods strips the new god
And here I am a nomad
Free of borrowed hand-me-downs
Charged with an indivisible legacy
I arrive a primitive to my very depths
What do you say of the beautiful nude in the arena?
The sea engulfs this glow
Beside the tree ripe for abandon
If your hand points out the only star
I drink the sky’s cup
In the swoon of your flesh
Drunk like a ship ready to sail
Don’t wait for the word that divides
I reject the eloquence of leaves in the air
Fear the wealth of the sphinx
Who leaps
Hairy
Into the decadent gold of the ages
The wind of distant splendors
Puts me on board for a spin without end
The boat floats on the dance of the joys
Of a moon that shines on your open thighs

Don’t object to the precedence of any quiver
Broadside the rebellious waves
I say the fruit will fall
Into the shadowy hollow of your waiting hands
So fragile they are smiling like a wounded urchin
Why a coat-of-arms on the brow of the nights
When a squall the rhythm of the ephemerides
The reef of my life
I the flame of your hips
Which grows bold along the horizons
Dawn pales the elegance of young teeth
Discover the power in every window
Streaking the desert with a soul that confronts
The sleepwalking conch-shell on the table
Wailing out the hallelujah of a free mouth
Striking against the swooning of bodies
I see tomorrows flaming
From all the fountains of the world
Weird like in mirrors
And I hear you setting out for the waterfalls of fauns
Among these fields erect as the sword of your sex

Rosemary Manno is a poet and translator. She lives in San Francisco’s North Beach.

Jack Hirschman was born in New York City in 1933 and has lived since 1973 in San Francisco. He has published more than 45 translations of poetry from nine languages. Among his many volumes of poetry are Lyripol (City Lights, 1976), Endless Threshold (Curbstone Press, 1992), and Front Lines (City Lights, 2002).

—Paul Laraque was born in Jérémie, Haiti, on September 21, 1920. He moved to New York with his wife in 1961 and in 1964 was stripped of his Haitian citizenship by the Duvalier dictatorship. He served as secretary general of the Association of Haitian Writers Abroad from 1979–1986 and in 1986 returned to Haiti at the end of the Duvalier dynasty after 25 years in exile. Laraque is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Camourade (Curbstone Press, 1988), Oeuvres Incomplètes (Center of Documentation and Information Haïtienne, Canada 1999), and LESPWA (Hope), a collection of his poems in Creole (Les Editions Mémoire in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2001). Open Gate, a bilingual anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry, which Laraque coedited with Jack Hirschman, is forthcoming from Curbstone Press. Liberty Drum, a new selection of Laraque’s French and Creole poems translated into English is forthcoming from City Lights.

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Originally published in

BOMB 90, Winter 2005

Featuring interviews with Vargas-Suarez Universal and Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Vladimir Cybil and Jerry Philogene, Carlos Eire and Silvana Paternostro, David Scott and Stuart Hall, Evelyne Trouillot, Sibylle Fisher, Carlos B. Cordova and Daniel Flores y Ascencio, Damas “Fanfan” Louis and Michael Zwack, and Peniel Guerrier and Yvonne Daniel. 

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