For Susanne Rinne

It pleases me to straddle a horse and ride
like women do in the frescoes of Pompeii
in the Roman way, the Andromache way.
Then you would bear my mark
sweeter than brands made
from the red iron of lovely servitude, now banned.
Great joy for a woman as well!
You’ll have no cause for complaint.
You’ll be sated
doing all these things you say
to the gray kingbird, to the singing cock,
without end,
all these forbidden things
in theory
as they say:
a woman’s fantasy,
fantastic ride
of mighty Amazon warriors, female soldiers of Dahomey,   
like Penthesilea, spirited queen.
After all, what’s the danger
in doing these things that you say—
if by chance we should do them—
as long as we do them
while wildly insane?
For an upright woman today
will not, for all that, be defamed.

Oh understand how I waver!
What is this feminine sense
of decency, its tight reins?
I’m well aware I must refrain
from doing these things you say
ill-fated . . .
Believe me, I am dismayed
that these are forbidden things.

Now it is I inviting you
in melody,
in harmony.
Must we really be drunk to make
our living flesh rejoice?
Must we slowly drift away
in fairy tales,
in barbaric ways,
extreme in our rage
as in our cravings,

Ah, to be able to ride
like women do in the frescoes of Pompeii
like Andromache, in the Roman way,
straddling my proud horse
to Hell’s Road in Saint-Pierre
just below the volcano, Rise-to-Heaven Street
under Mount Pelée,
doing all these forbidden things
in paradise,
to allow myself all these positions you say
in mystic cries,
Yé mistikri!
To allow myself all these forbidden positions
and krik and krak
and krik krak.
No, the court will not sleep,
still hand to hand, filled with cries
of hedonistic poetry,
sweet Philosophy!
I took off
and worse, untamed
and running, I escaped
as a chestnut brown
Caribbean gourmet.

                    Martinique, 2003

© Suzanne Dracius. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by Nancy Naomi Carlson. All rights reserved.

        À Susanne Rinne

Il me plaît de chevaucher aussi
comme sur les fresques de Pompéi
à la Romaine, à l’Andromaque
Alors vous porteriez ma marque
plus suave que marquage au fer rouge
d’exquise servitude abolie
Pour une femme aussi, grand plaisir !
Ainsi n’aurez-vous rien à redire
C’est comme ça que vous serez comblé
à faire toutes ces choses que vous dites
au coq chantant, au pipirit,
à l’infini
toutes ces choses interdites
en théorie
comme on dit
fantasme de femme
en fantastique chevauchée
de haute guerrière, d’Amazone du Dahomey,
telle une fougueuse Penthésilée.

Après tout, qu’est-ce que l’on risque
à faire ces choses que vous me dites
si d’aventure nous le faisions
pourvu que nous le fassions
en douce folie ?
Car une femme debout d’aujourd’hui
ne sera pas pour autant maudite.

Oh, comprenez combien j’hésite !
Mais quelle est cette pudeur dite
qui me retient aux abords ?
Je sais bien qu’il faut que j’évite
de faire ces choses que vous me dites
en malappris
en malfini
Croyez bien que cela m’irrite
que ce soient choses interdites.

Maintenant c’est moi qui vous invite
en mélodie
en harmonie.
Faut-il vraiment que l’on soit ivre
pour faire exulter nos chairs vives ?
Faut-il que longuement l’on dérive
en féerie
en barbarie
extrêmes dans nos emportements
autant que dans nos engouements
en frénésie
en malcadi ?

Ah ! Pouvoir chevaucher aussi
comme sur les fresques de Pompéi
à l’Andromaque, à la Romaine
ma fière monture enfourchant
à la rue d’Enfer à Saint-Pierre
juste au-dessous du volcan
sous la Pelée rue Monte au ciel,
faire toutes ces choses interdites
en paradis,
m’offrir toutes ces poses que vous dites
en mystique cri,
Yé misticri !
M’offrir toutes ces poses interdites
et cric et crac
et cric crac.
Non, la cour ne va pas dormir
encore à corps et à cris
en hédoniste poésie,
La philo !
J’ai pris l’envol
Et pis j’ai pris
marronne en
caribéenne épicurie.

Suzanne DraciusSuzanne Dracius

Author and playwright Suzanne Dracius was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and grew up in Sceaux, a suburb of Paris. She later returned to Martinique as a professor of classical literature.  In 1989, she published her first novel, L’autre qui danse. Her short stories “La Montagne de Feu” and “La Virago,” from her collection of stories Rue Monte au Ciel, have been translated for American anthologies. In 2005, Dracius published the play Lumina Sophie dite Surprise, featuring a protagonist who led a revolt of other women of her class against their white European overseer in 1870. In 2008, Dracius published her first collection of poems, Exquise déréliction métisse,  for which she won the Prix Fetkann. Dracius has been a visiting professor at the University of Georgia and Ohio University. In 2010 Dracius won a Prix de la Société des Poètes Français (Prize of the Society of the French Poets) for her body of work. Dracius’s work emphasizes Martinique’s complex cultural history, and its shaping by Asian, European, and  African cultures.

Translated from FrenchFrench by Nancy Naomi CarlsonNancy Naomi Carlson

Prize-winning author of two poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection, Nancy Naomi Carlson holds a PhD in foreign-language methodology, is an associate editor for Tupelo Press, and teaches at the Bethesda Writer’s Center.  Stone Lyre: Poems of René Char was published last year by Tupelo Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as AGNI, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, the Georgia Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and the Southern Review. She is the recipient of a Maryland Arts Council grant for poetry.