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A poem from Madagascar

By Geoff Wisner

Around Valentine's Day, the go-to book for romantic African literature in translation has to be Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry. One of its many gems is this poem by Flavien Ranaivo of Madagascar, first published in The Negritude Poets: An Anthology of Translations from the French (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1975).

The Common Lover's Song

Do not love me, cousin,
like a shadow
for shadows vanish with the evening
and I would keep you with me
all night long;
or like pepper
which makes the belly hot
for then I couldn't
satisfy my hunger;
or like a pillow
for then we'd be together
while we're sleeping
but hardly see each other
once it's day;
or like rice
for once swallowed
you think no more of it;
or like sweet words
for they evaporate;
or like honey
sweet enough but all too common.
Love me like a lovely dream,
your life at night,
my hope by day;
like the silver coin
I keep close on earth
and on the great voyage,
a faithful companion;
like a calabash,
intact, for drawing water
in pieces, bridges for my lute.

Published Feb 11, 2010   Copyright 2010 Geoff Wisner

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