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25 February 2014

Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo - Poems

Edinburgh Bilingual Library, 1972
"Anthology of contemporary French poetry"
Edited and translated
Graham Dunstan Martin, Lecturer in French, University of Edinburgh
General Editor
A.A. Parker, Professor of Spanish, University of Texas
Editorial Board
C.P. Brand
A.J. Steele

THE BLACK COW'S hide is stretched,
stretched without putting out to dry,
stretched in sevenfold shadow.

But who slaughtered the black cow
dead without lowing, dead without bellowing,
dead without being pursued
on that meadow flowering with stars?

There she is, lying across half the sky.

Her hide is stretched
on the wind's sounding-box
carved by the spirits of sleep.

And the drum is ready
when they crown with sword-lilies
the horns of the calf delivered
grazing on the hills.

It will beat there,
and its incantations turn to dreams
till the moment when the black cow comes alive,
pink and white,
by a river of light.

scuttles from walls of night
to gnaw the milk-cake moon?
Tomorrow morning
he'll be gone
leaving marks of bloodstained teeth.

Tomorrow morning
all-night drunkards
and card-players leaving
will look at the moon
and stammer:
'Whose is that tanner
rolling on the green table?'
'Oh,' someone'll reply,
'our friend gambled everything away
and killed himself.'

And they'll all guffaw
and stagger and fall.
As for the moon, she won't be there:
the rat will have carried her off to his hole.