The Jivin' Ladybug

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Aimé Césaire

Translated by Clayton Eshleman and A. James Arnold


To Africa


                               For Wifredo Lam


Peasant strike the soil with your pickhoe

in the soil there is an urgency that no syllable of the event may unknot

I recall the notorious plague that will occur in the year 3000

there was no annunciatory star

merely the earth in a pebbleless wave kneading out of space a bread of grass and reclusion

strike peasant strike

on the first day the birds shall die

on the second day the fish beached

on the third day the animals came out of the woods

and formed a hot belt great and powerful around the cities

strike the soil with your pickhoe

there is in the soil the map of the transmutations and trickeries of death

on the fourth day the vegetation withered

and everything turned bitter from the agave to the acacia

turning into egrets and vegetal organ pipes

or the spiny wind played flutes and trenchant odors

Strike peasant strike

in the sky are born windows that are my spurted eyes

and their harrow in my chest forms the rampart of a city refusing passage to the muleteers of despair

Strike the soil with your pickhoe

there are elemental waters singing in the turns of the magnetic field the hatching of the earth’s little shoes

passemented lamprey expectation I await with vulnerary expectations a countryside to be born in my mistress’s ears and to turn verdant in her sex

the belly of my mistress is a thunderbolt of fine weather

the thighs of my mistress play at being trees fallen along her stride

there is at the foot of our fairy castles for the rendezvous of blood and landscape the ballroom in which dwarfs brandishing mirrors listen to the sex of a gaze growing in the folds of stone or salt

peasant so that she whom the wind wounds can emerge from the mountain’s head

so that a mouthful of bells can cool down in her throat

bells that unravel into crows into skirts into drillers of isthmuses

so that my wave may be devoured in her wave and lead us back onto the sand as drowned ones as the flesh of guavas torn into the blueprint of a hand into beautiful seaweed into aerial seed into a bubble into recollection into a precatory tree

let your act be a wave that howls and regathers toward the hollow of beloved rocks as if to perfect an island rebelling against birth

there is in the soil the scruple of tomorrow and the burden of speech as well as silence

and screw those who do not understand that it is not beautiful to praise the eternal and to celebrate your name o Most High

for you have neither the glistening strength of the buffalo nor the mathematical science of the ibis nor the patience of the black man

and the cow-dung that you roll with less dexterity than the scarab is second in luxury to the words knotted beneath my tongue


Eternal I am thinking neither of you nor of your bats

but I do think of Ishtar badly defended by the crumbling hound-pack of her vestments whom each zero utterance of uvulas further below near metals pretending to sleep with their faces inclines

and the serpents swaying sycamore hair in the depth of our exiles enciphers with shadow and understanding


Peasant the wind in which ships’ hulls glide stops the distant hand of a dream around my face

your field in its havoc explodes erect with deep-sea monsters that I shall not thrust aside

and my gesture is as pure as a forgetful brow


strike peasant I am your son

at the hour of the setting sun dusk splashes under my eyelid a yellowish green tepid with undozing iguanas

but the beautiful messenger ostrich born suddenly from the aroused forms of woman beckons to me of the future in friendship



Crusade of Silence


And now

that the enormous birds commit suicide

that animal entrails blacken on the sacrificial knife that priests stand firm a calling at the crossroads knotted in the compost of bric-a-brac

that in waiting rooms the mercurial swans of the connecting-rod launched onto the map of the void


sterility is worked to death from your being several

on my right hand an animal sings

dragons to your being the right hand decomposes its sowings from your being several necessity crumbles away from the ignoble horizon


O Timbuktu on its knees in the sand

O vision of the sea of clouds toward Cuba

O under the dawn snow the sparkling arroyo


when in your venisons a stone blocks with a thousand faces the great hole made in your flesh by the saturnine water of the word  

extinct Chimborazo still devours the world



Several Miles from the Surface


The tip of the cone of shadow on our Brazilian cheeks

in the eclipses of the sun

laughing so with happiness like the long coitus

of a tree with a sailboat

in the hall of a cyclone of the first order


give me your eagle eyes

your glorious bird eyes

your incendiary bird and soul conductor eyes

and how I do love the circulation of the blood of disaster

in the veins of a ten-storied house at the sublime moment preceding its collapse at the stroke of 3 PM







                                                                                           For Pierre Loeb



My horse stumbles over skulls hopscotched in rust

my horse rears in a storm of clouds which are putrefactions of shipwrecked flesh

my horse neighs in the fine rain of roses and sentiments that my blood creates in the scenery of the street fairs

my horse stumbles over the clumps of cacti that are the entangled vipers of my torments

my horse stumbles neighs and stumbles toward the curtain of blood of my blood pulled down on all the pimps shooting craps for my blood

my horse stumbles before the impossible flame of the barrier howled at by the vesicles of my blood

my horse rears before the great pillar of hyacinth perfectly pure that rises to the glory of the lord and descends to the depths of the shit of my blood

my horse rears before a beryl lamp made from fireflies peddled by my blood

I saw too a great horse of ardent peace that dashed forward pawing the ground from a season of rains of mollusks of an anger of hair of a harangue of pyramids of a camisole of old corks of a confusion of mushroom spittle

great horse my blood to be spilled in public squares

my blood in which from time to time a woman in solar perfection shoots out all her tuberous stems and vanishes in a tornado born on the far side of the world

my blood for a foot freshly repainted as a gibbet

my blood that no canonization has ever soiled

my blood the wine of a drunkard’s vomit

my blood that no paid off judge has ever heard

I give it to you great horse

I give you my ears to be made into nostrils capable of quivering

my hair to be made into a mane as wild as they come

my tongue to be made into mustang hooves

I give them to you

great horse

so that you approach at the extreme limit of brotherhood

the men of elsewhere and of tomorrow

on your back a child of the furrow with barely moving lips

who for you

will disarm

the chlorophyllian crumb of the vast ravens of the future.


The Jivin' Ladybug- A Skewered Journal of the Arts
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