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Estelle Coppolani, translated by Vasantha Sambamurti

I remember a river

at a bend in the road 
behind a small chapel 
painted red 
a ravine has dug its bed 
in the shape of a coral 


next to the mango trees 
a big bilimbi tree
offers its garnished vine 
to grasshoppers and ants


since the past few days 
bean shoots 
have started to appear  
by the grace of the summer rains


on the way to school 
a little girl noticed
in the velvet light 
a silhouette planted 
in the rocks, the trunks 


in the mystery’s presence 
the girl believes she senses on her neck 
cricket legs 
tracing a segment of an enigma 
in an old alphabet 


by this morning vision 
she conceived a prayer 
that she sings on her way home
plucking tangors 


three times I thank 
this eye and this mouth
and this foot and this belly 
gone to the great plains
to restore their spirit 


I say thank you three times
for the winds rising in the east 
the flat coast beneath the lava
the water flowing to the hermitage 


if the little girl returns a bit late 
we rush to ask 
ou sa ou sort kosa ou la fé
where were you, what did you do 
fénwar fini tombé té
night has already fallen 


it’s later before sleep 
that the child who went to the ravine 
repeats her prayer 
I remember a river 
mwa na souvnans rivièr lontan


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