Pedro Pérez-Sarduy ~ Cumbite (1)
They say it happened when the rains came
Oggun had not yet come.
the famous warrior appeared
brandishing his machete of iron tempered
How much fugitive pain has been impregnated with our skin with our people. How many lies spread through woods and villages trying to humiliate us. Why has our dialect ceased to be... So alien to us.
And they turned back their memory. A long journey to the night in Conakry when they shot him down so that Amilcar would not dare to find the dawn of his green land.
Madina. Beli. Boe.
Bit by bit from Lusitanian eyes we tore our lightless emeralds.
Thus spoke the brother of the one they killed to win a war. But the voice does not die and echoed free in the wind.
The history of the world would be very easy to make if the struggle were only undertaken in unfailingly favorable conditions...
The orishas gathered there stood up in sign of praise for the dead man.
There is no other metaphor than palm oil for curing wounds. The Santa Maria's and the silk cotton thorns have multiplied in the silence of ships laden with captive blacks. Today the Caribbean sea writhes with ghostly galleons to redeem the absence of those who died. The moonless night and the ocean's strict confidence were witness.
Hate is not fortuitous here. We have never despaired. We are coming back and at this point blood still reddens charcoal wrath.
We returned with reaffirmed reasons ready to bless with gunpowder our anger's actions if it were necessary.
The Master of all Metals(10) the warrior par excellence made his bells ring. The Fourth Alafin of Oyo exploded stones spearheads contrived flashes and danced frenetically to the rhythm of monkeypods. The Lord of the Kingdoms rejoiced and made his cowries shimmer and sparkle. He seemed satisfied with his mortals.
He meditated and listened to the peace he brought with him galloping on saddles of silence. Rather like this total submission to the law of the unending flow of life or a torrent of froth and pure water that bears us from desire to desire from pain to pain condemned to this cycle of rebirth.
There is no alternative but to dissolve what produces this very desire.
Father Long Arms contemplated his empty calabash inseparable attribute. Will and power over all quarters. He spoke thus.
I love those who do not search behind my stars for a reason to sacrifice themselves in death. I love those who sacrifice themselves here on this Earth. So that one day my stars might be theirs.
And moving his arms in a flury of green leaves he opened a sufficient clearing and set down his strange figure with its fresh wounds assuaged with spring water jasmine and orange blossom pollen. He spoke thus.
Everlasting in my vision the faces of my dead misery and discord. My dead. Where the sun sets they conspire with sandalwood root and chalk powder. There they refuse to relinquish once and for all that historical dimension in which since ancient Greece and Rome until the imperialisms of today they have always confused civilization and power and would relegate us to the category of barbarians both the condemned peoples and those who refuse to be so. Neither do I want compromises. Compromises make us weak like the New World humming bird in a storm and cracked like the earth in a prolonged drought. Compromises mean inertia imbalance. There they only recognize one recourse. Force. And here is my force. Beginning and end of all things. My black peoples overseas and those in this land North and South of the Sahara only have one choice. Servitude is the alternative. Or are we difine as the quintessence of suffering to live in barbarity served up in cellophane packs trimmed with entrails. Our entrails. Why not live in tolerance of one another. In cumbite. In the solidarity of the night awaiting dawn. Let everyone assemble my native my lepers my penned in and my healthy ones in this southern land where they lack everything except the good fortune to be savagely used and I will send quartz and cobalt corallite and vanadium ore lava of cooper and titanium crashing down on the heads of those ambitious mortals. I want thunderbolts. Thousands of thunderbolts. Thunderbolts of saltpeter and gunpowder. Now.
Thus did he speak and they went back into the shadows as they had come. The rest stayed just a moment. All that was needed to end the cumbite. To return later. With haste. Urgently. With the confidence of the approaching dawn in their fists. To go on...
1 Coumbite in Haiti, a gathering with spiritual connotations
Poema epico del Libro Cumbite y otros Poemas, 1976 Translated by Michael Tarr
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