Too bad for you men who don’t notice that my eyes remember
slings and black flags
which murder with each blink of my Mississipi lashes
Too bad for you men who do not see who do not see anything
not even the gorgeous railway signals formed under my eyelids by the black and red discs
of the coral snake that my munificence coils in my Mississipi tears
Too bad for you men who do not see that in the depth of the reticule where chance has
deposited our Mississipi eyes
there waits a buffalo sunk to the very hilt of the swamp’s eyes
Too bad for you men who do not see that you cannot stop me from building to his fill
egg-headed islands of flagrant sky
under the calm ferocity of the immense geranium of our sun.
Aimé Césaire (1913-2008), best known as co-founder of the Negritude movement in France, was a great mid-century poet in the Surrealist vein. “Mississipi” will be published in 2011 by Wesleyan University Press in A. James Arnold’s and Clayton Eshleman’s bilingual edition of Césaire’s Solar Throat Slashed.
A. James Arnold is the author of Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Césaire (Harvard University Press) and the editor of the Paris edition of Césaire’s complete literary works (CNRS-Planète Libre, in progress). He was a juror of the Casa de las Américas English-language prize (Havana) in 1998.
Recent books by Clayton Eshleman include The Grindstone of Rapport: A Clayton Eshleman Reader (Black Widow Press) and a translation of The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo (University of California Press). Black Widow Press will publish a new collection of Eshleman’s poetry, Anticline, April 2010.
Translator Eshleman’s Recommendations:
The Language of Birds by Dale Pendell.
Stroke by Stroke by Henri Michaux, translated by Richard Sieburth.
Lip Wolf by Laura Solórzano, translated by Jen Hofer.
Editor’s Note: Césaire intentionally used the seventeenth century French spelling of “Mississipi.”