NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 62

Poems by Léon-Gontran Damas, translated by Brenda Marie Osbey — for Louis Armstrong — for Robert Goffin Way up in the attic of my crib I’ve kept until now the solid old ancestral creed along with a few fellows just a few from the old neighborhood What they’ve given me in return a harder and a wearier life — But the masques those white plaster masques for all their automatic arrogance have managed to strip away not one bit of a far more hideous past so squarely rooted pervading every cranny and corner of my life And my face burning shining from the horrors of that past and this dreadful grin of mine put on to beat back ghosts of bloodhounds tracking down runaway slaves and my voice singing sweet enough to torture the sorry soul of that ob- scen- i- ty Making my bread amid the de- gen- er- acy of their racket– my soul keeps watch my dream is mightier than all the unspeakable depravity the bludgeons they swing Léon-Gontran Damas, Pigments, 1937 LAMENT My todays keep both eyes trained on my yesterdays two big eyes rolling with bitterness and shame The days inexorably blue remain in my memory — the making of this cut-down life of mine Even now that dazed state from the old days — lashes from the knotted cord bodies burned to ash the tip of the boot in the branded back decomposed flesh brandings with red-hot irons limbs broken beneath the crack of the whip the whip that runs the plantation the sugar-mill slaking its thirst with blood the blood of my blood and the boss-man smoking his pipe swaggering up at the sky. [Léon-Gontran Damas, Pigments, 1937] “Shine” poetry