Home page • Table of Contents • Send your writings and e-mail to: Editors@tanbou.com



Poetry in English

Poems by Danielle Legros Georges

(From Island Heart, translations by DLG of Ida Faubert’s Cœur des îles)

Danielle Legros Georges reading with poet Sylvie Kandé at Grolier Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 18, 2022.

Danielle Legros Georges (left) reading with poet Sylvie Kandé at the Grolier Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 18, 2022.

To No Longer Think

To no longer think, to no longer feel
To let one’s heart go adrift
With no heavy sorrow, with no sharp pain
To be nothing, to disappear.

All the shivers, all the fevers,
All the uncomforted tears
To stifle them, to hold back
The wrongs that burn one’s lips.

To hide one’s great pride from everyone.
To not seek compassion
From another soul.
To keep one’s mourning to oneself.

To stay far from everything.
To live without joy and without regret.
This must be the key to bliss:
A vague bliss, mystery-free.

But I don’t want this ease.
It is too bland for me.
I want to see the jasmine bloom
And breathe in the scent of lilacs.

I want to keep in my chest
A heart beating with desire,
Even if I die
Of divine ecstasy and joy!

I can’t see the day break
Without all of me trembling.
I must know this, and I must love.
Life is a hymn of love.

Absence

How sad my heart is far from you!
Tonight, all the voices seem stricken to me
The smiles drained, the eyes free of passion…
My dream has folded its injured wings.

Yet the air is full of piercing perfumes…

All around me there’s chatter, but I stay distant
Unmoved by any gesture, unmoved by any word.
Each minute deepens my anguish and grief.

Though I try, I can’t seem to conquer my ennui.
Fragile hope fades in the passing hour
And night’s shadow shrouds my soul
Grown even more weary.

Awakening

I regret the days I’ve lived without you
Without seeing you, loving you, even knowing you
Yet I was storing all the love within me for you
Like an ultimate treasure.

So, let’s forget the hours gone by
When I let my heart soften and weep.
I was simply waiting to love you
With all the passion desperate souls keep.

And here, now, the delicious moment
In which to love you. My heart is amazed.
I emerge at last, from my dark half-sleep
And find life again, in the depths of your eyes.

—from Island Heart, by Ida Faubert, translated by Danielle Legros Georges, Subpress Books, 2021. Copyright © 2021. Reprinted with permission of Subpress Books, with acknowledgment of Ida Faubert’s 1939 Cœur des îles published in Anthologie secrète, by Mémoire d’encrier, Montréal, 2005.

Poem by Jean St-Vil

Don’t Lose Your Head

Each head has its name
Some say the last name head first
But a name on the head
Is it the name of the head?
What I know
Is that a name on the head
Can never be erased
Not even after death
What I know
Is that the name of the head
Sticks to the body from head to toe
It’s the head that counts
And counts above all
When people lose their head
They don’t lose their name for all that
Don’t lose your head
Even if you are sure and certain
That it will remain on your shoulders
Don’t lose your head
Even if you are sure and certain
That your name will remain
For centuries and centuries
Don’t lose your head
It is precious as long as you live
Long live the head
Long live life!

(English translation, Elizabeth Brunazzi)

Poem by Sussen Gazal

Just the Right Amount of Wrong

(Dedicated to Idi Jawarakim)

Idi playing guitar at Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Idi playing guitar at Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You are about to leave this office
And I am about to never see you again.
Here. We are. Twelve-noon, pretending it’s just another monthly meeting
Pretending we are nourished and content, celebrating your decision to stop to
Pick up the bus to Central Square and walk down Prospect St. until B39.
But I’m about to puke with the idea
We are not going to share raw food and raw thoughts ever again.

I give you an olive; you give it that look called Food for Thought.
The name of that book we will never write.
Have a piece of my vegan chocolate mousse
I made it from scratch because of you.
Because of you I no longer eat meat or dairy
Because of you, the flowers haven’t died.
Lights have been dimmed, but there’s much more insight.
Whose phone is ringing? Yours or mine?

We should have a selective hearing. Dammit!
It’s time for helping a patient in need. It’s time for Super Hero, Idi.
It’s time for a helping hand, indeed. It’s time for helping yourself. Don’t quit.
When you wake up in the morning and start getting ready for your gig,
Think of us as silent participants of your Individual Spring Revolution thing.
Fling us a tune. We will make sure to stay with the pitch.
Now that you have your guitar as a spiritual guide and commander in chief
Try not to overuse your new pair of wings, having in mind what Malcolm X once said:
“Nobody can give you freedom, if you’re a man, you take it.” 

To that, Mr. King would make a toast, I bet.
To you, Mr. Jawarakim. To your bold Future.

—Sussen Gazal

Poem by Elizabeth Brunazzi

Fall

(For Pam)

“Howl” by Elizabeth Brunazzi, 2022.

“Howl” by Elizabeth Brunazzi, 2022.

The dazzle of golden
Leaves flying in the light
Of the ripe time
Through the violet air
Of towering mountains
Gathering wayfarers
What are they wishing for?
What was? What lies before?
Later and later, it grows
Hurry, hurry on.

(Taos, October 9th, 2022)

I am Cleopatra

I am lying back on the front steps
Of the house where we are staying,
Age five or six and got up in
One of my dress-ups,
Usually something long with layers
Of tulle petticoats and scarves
Tied around my waist and head,
My hand poised above my small, flat chest
Holding a dinner knife,
I declare, “I am Cleopatra, I am Cleopatra,
And I am going to kill myself.”

How I knew of Cleopatra,
Remains a mystery
Or how I got the story wrong
Inserting the prop of the knife
Instead of the asp,
In East Texas then in 1949
There were plenty of snakes around,
A nest of what they called the King Snakes
(It was Texas after all where everything is big and cowboys are kings)
Under a bush in the front yard
But those would not have killed me,
And then it was Antony who used the sword, the knife.

What inspired this early taste for drama
These performances, my mock suicides,
Was it my mother going mad upstairs with her third child,
Taking to the daily bottle of sherry
Or my older sister offering me that chicken blood
She said was red Kool-Aid,
Or the landlord’s sweaty teenage son
Who’d taken a shine to me as if
I were his next girlfriend?
It is true I was a hot little number even then.

And now sometimes, mornings
In my kitchen I am afraid
Of knives pointing at me,
Some nights the knives glinting
In the background of dark mirrors
While Antony is nowhere in sight.

—Elizabeth Brunazzi

Poems by Kiki Wainwright

Lost dream

Your memory will never go away,
an indelible ink
that’s there to stay forever.
Yesteryear’s hanging in the air.

You have the power to make me talk;
you have the power to make me think;
you have the power to give me inspiration
in order to write poetry
and give you the praise you deserve.
What power do I have on you?

Time has passed,
I no longer have any power
to dictate my wishes to you;
if a good Samaritan
finds me on the former Lovers Road
he will pick me up,
for a wounded heart’s not supposed
to wander in the street.

An open book you used to be,
your thoughts I could read,
vibration in your heart I could feel.
Now, the fire of my lamp is extinguished.
The clock of yesteryear’s jammed.

A farewell

A lump in the throat
excruciating pain.
I didn’t want that fateful time
to show on the clock;
but it did: 11:15 pm
Overturned my life in a second,
seeing that lifeless body on the bed.
My eyes a river flowing on my cheeks
abundantly, non-stop.

Flow river, flow,
tears of love,
tears of sadness.

Gone my better half,
gone to the unknown.
Helplessness nurses, doctors, science,
in control, the Great Architect of the Universe;
You give
You take back.

Flow river, flow,
tears of love,
tears of sadness.

Negro Spiritual

Satin dress
high heel
large hat
Miss Dior.
Jeans
tee shirt
tennis shoes,
depending on the day;
Aramis
Jacket
dark glasses
bow tie
bible,
oh yes,
faithful companion,
gear up for the service.
From Harlem to Liberty City,
from Detroit to Montgomery,
from San Francisco to New Orleans:
black song
black soul
soulful songs.

Savory notes,
peaceful or joyful
lento or allegro,
at the divine church
high is the spirit.
Cultural heritage
from motherland Africa,
sweet praise
powerful songs
an appeal to Him:
black song
black soul
soulful songs.

Nostalgic hymns
folk ballads
bad memories:
cotton field
and plantations
white water fountain
black water fountain,
white restaurant
black restaurant
back of the bus.
Sobbing voices,
low deep
or high pitch
to reach heaven;
message of love and hope,
hope to overcome adversity
in a world of diversity
and plurality:
black song
black soul
soulful songs.

—Excerpts from the collection Tanbou liberation / Tambour de la liberation / Drum of Liberation, Editions Trilingual Press, 2017.)

Poems by Tontongi

Two Plagues in Our Time

(A Meditation on Covid-19 and the Derek Chauvin verdict)

Our time demands much more
than just resolve and strength
it requires perhaps a better aim
than sole survival instinct.

Our time takes us to the extremities
of poles and their irrelevance
redefining enclosed perimeters;
it re-arranges space.

Our time exults in the unexpressed
sense of doom, even for those
who choose to ignore Covid’s perils
in a diabolical reverse of wisdom.

Some retreat to Neanderthal time,
free perhaps, but to die in the solitude
of the breathing and feeding tubes,
in the solitude of empty space
covered in absence of all things
submitting to laws of evanescence.

The people came every day
to this Minneapolis street corner
at the shrine erected since day one
to honor George Floyd’s memory.
It’s a matinal symphony of many,
many cosmic events aligned
in the pursuit of a better universe.

They are building brick by brick
the atemporal affirmation of love
calling for a new humanist covenant.
Justice rendered gives indeed such
a sweet sense of possible equity,
although George, the sacrificial lamb
killed on a sunny spring day
in the name of private property
could not enjoy justice’s charm.

May George’s killer’s guilty verdict
pave the way for recognition
of the unblemished sanctity
and wholeness of Black lives
and of all humanity’s integrity,
along with the respect
of our collective right to be
and live life unharmed by police abuse.

The beauty, you know,
is the constellation of consciences
from all of Earth’s corners,
from all of Earth’s colors
coalesced in the birthing of a new dawn.
The beauty is the people of all neighborhoods
standing together to demand change.

Five hundred years of gestation
does not make evil less hurtful nor justice
any less desirable in a civilized world.
The Covid-19 plague has certainly its toll,
economic collapse, descent into joblessness
the flow of tears and the specter of death
lurking around the corner, the anxiety
as for whom the ambulance comes,
the sense that our instant may not last
—yet we continue to love and hope.

Still worse are five hundred years of sorrow
and heartless depravation of the soul,
the slow, continual descent into madness,
and yet we always find joy, and revive, defiant,
the beauty hidden even in the darkness.

Yes, our time demands much more
than greed and scapegoating
and less than self-aggrandizement;
it’s a time of both calvary and elation
that has asked for higher aims
than just the delight of the moment
and a little less than glory
a little less than victory declared
in a miles-long cemetery.

May the spirits of the fallen
in both social and natural plagues
continue to animate awareness,
and help the sprouting of a new day,
in the pursuit of a rejuvenated universe.

(April 2021)

He is as Apple Pie as US-America

He is as apple pie as US-America
from the mean-looking kind
to the church-going type
neither Ben Franklin nor John Brown
from the slicing of Manhattan
to the greedy and racist landlord
ending with a seat in the Oval office
from the alienated lumpen masses
to those who dream and long muse
of a new El Dorado on the Hudson.

“Hate the dog but admit it has white teeth,”
says the Haitian proverb: the Donald has
never started a war for oil’s sake;
he sent love letters to Kim Jong Un,
counting his bucks happily lying flat
on the Mar-a-Lago sunny beach.

He is yours, the Donald,
don’t pretend to deny
your flirtation
nor your affiliation;
he is yours, the Donald,
your Avida Dollars *
in twenty-first century USA.

(May 2021)

—Tontongi

* Avida Dollars is an anagram of Salvador Dali’s name, given to him by the Surrealists because of his greed.

Poems by Gary S. Daniel

Forwards (3-4-3)

play hard game
avoid dribble pass kick
softball shreds net

Friendship (3-4-3)

injured player laid
on pitch without ball
referee calls doctor

Focus (3-4-3)

see aimed shoot
burst eager bullzay despair
seize harvest happiness

Passion (3-3-4)

exposed love sucks
heart’s weakness, while
absorbing last blood O2.

Pride (3-3-4)

head up straight
high conceit chest
on caporal steps forward

Amity (3-3-4)

Life heavy weight
pain crashing vertebrae
unexpected friends’ help arrived

—Gary S. Daniel, excerpts from his book Foutbòl lavi 2 a 1/Life Soccer 2 to 1 [ISBN: 978-1-936431-39-7], Edisyon Trilingual Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2021.

A view of the Christian Science Building, in Boston, MA.

A view of the Christian Science Building in Boston, MA, 2022. —photo Tanbou

Home Page • Table of Contents • Send your writings and your letters to: Editors@tanbou.com