Khal Torabully (Translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson)
[I know from now on that my wound]

I know from now on that my wound
will be found where dawn cripples dreams.
The sun in my chest
to blind me to eyelids
I barely know:
o close your eyes
when you look at me down in the hold.

Je sais dorénavant que ma blessure sera
à l'endroit où l'aurore paralyse les rêves.
Le soleil dans ma poitrine,
pour ne pas voir de paupières
moins familières :
ô ferme les yeux
quand tu me regardes à fond de cale.

[Captain, distant god]

Captain, distant god,
put away your azure whip!
And next, before break of day,
on the large rungs of waves,
I’ll hang my drum’s mirages.
And next, before love,
in my trade-wind cargo holds
I’ll blend for you
fresh and salt water.
And next, before break of day,
I’ll be a man dispersed
by a great gust of wind.

And next to trade-wind cargo holds,
before albatross and spider crab
I’ll be another fit of rage.

Capitaine dieu distant,
éloigne ton fouet d'azur !
Et après, avant le jour,
aux grands barreaux des vagues,
j'étalerai les mirages sur mon tambour.
Et après, avant l'amour,
dans mes cales d'alizé
je mélangerai pour vous
eau douce et eau salée.
Et après, avant le jour
je serai homme éparpillé
par un grand coup de vent.

Et si près des cales d'alizés
avant l'albatros et l'araignée
je serai encore coup de sang.

[I left for the mill]

I left for the mill
like a star ground down by sweat—
and sweat duplicates dust
and your memory soundproofs crystals
and your shadow answers: wake up, sea!
I left at daybreak—
a genuine one-eyed sailor—
and the red bird
turned its head
toward the small mound of sand
I had in my other hand.

Je partis au moulin
comme un astre broyé par la sueur -
et la sueur réplique la poussière
et ta mémoire insonorise les cristaux
et ton ombre réplique mer debout !
Je partis au matin
vrai marin borgne
et c'est l'oiseau rouge
qui tourna sa tête
sur le peu de sable
que j'avais dans l'autre main.

Khal Torabully is an award-winning poet, essayist, film director, and semiologist from Mauritius who has authored over 25 books. Torabully has given voice to the unimaginable suffering of millions of indentured laborers and coined the term “coolitude” in the way Aimé Césaire coined the term “negritude,” imbuing it with honor.

Nancy Naomi Carlson has received two literature translation fellowships from the NEA. She is a poet, translator, essayist, and senior translation editor for Tupelo Quarterly, having authored ten titles (6 translated). An Infusion of Violets (Seagull, 2019) was named “New &
Noteworthy” by the New York Times.