Léopold Sédar Senghor

In Memoriam

translated, from the French, by Zack Rogow

 

It’s Sunday.

I’m afraid of the crowd that looks like me with its stone faces.

From my glass tower crowded with migraines and impatient Ancestors

I muse over the rooftops and hills in the mist

In the calm—the chimneys are serious and naked.

At their feet my dead are sleeping; all my dreams deeds—dust

All my dreams, needless blood spilled down the streets, mixing with the blood of butcher shops.

And now, from this observation post, as if from the outskirts of the city

I muse over my dreams walking distractedly down the streets, sleeping at the foot of the hills,

Like the drovers of my race on the banks of the Gambia and the Saloum

And now the Seine, at the foot of the hills.

Let me think about my dead!

Yesterday was All Saints, the Sun’s solemn birthday

And all the cemeteries were empty of memories.

Oh my Dead, who always refused to die, who were able to keep Death at bay

Away from the Sine, away from the Seine, and in my fragile veins, my indomitable blood

Protect my dreams as you protected your migratory sons with their skinny legs.

Oh my dead! defend the Paris rooftops in the Sunday fog

The rooftops that protect my dead.

Let me leave my dangerously safe tower and walk down to the street

With my brothers who have blue eyes

And rough hands.

Léopold Sédar Senghor

 Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor died on December 20, 2001 at the age of 95.  He was both a poet and the first president of his native Senegal following independence in 1960. Although he was famed as a political figure and was the first African leader to surrender power voluntarily, he said he would prefer to be remembered as a poet. Senghor was one of the founders of the Négritude movement (he coined the word) and influential in creating a climate of pride in African ancestry.


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