22 Luglio 2024


poesia scritta nel 2008 prima della vittoria di Obama.


How many barges docked along the shores of the Mississippi

gazes lost in endless despair;

the mourning stars, the melancholy sky, the golden sweat

that enriched lands with no past and no present?

The canoe which abandoned the Atlantic

which lived in the heart of your ancestors and ours,

the canoe of grievances spewed forth volcanic lava:

the quicksilver, fiery blood of dark nights,

nights of pure suffering and pain.

This is the blood of the lion and the bear

which at dawn will open the eye of the sun and the moon.

Your dream runs aground on the shores of all innocent hearts

which humming in the waves offer the spring breeze.

Hope sculpts your lips and engenders love,

and from your marble smile, a whole people will glow.

Your artist’s spirit and your innovative soul

proudly stamp their unifying seal on the pavement.

May your melodious voice not harmonize with hostile swords

but, rather, sweeten bitter tears of joy.

As of today, history filled the pages of memory.

The words have spread across our horizon,

and speak through our eyes.

Cheers come from a liberated people,

a people imprisoned since long ago.

Now the flowers bloom and bring forth sweet fruits,

the fruits of ancient roots

and centuries that fill wells with treasured memories:

Gorée is reborn, the sky of Bahia smiles

the Mississippi hums, and Harlem strikes up its Jazz.

Today, the wind refreshes the lost gazes.

The seasons celebrate and the pen rewrites the long journey of the Negroes.

The departing starts are welcomed into a merciful sky:

Martin Luther King, whose sharp tongue did not violate words,

Malcolm X, who sang of liberty, Marcus Garvey with his legendary story.

Today you are the measure of history.

You, indomitable Maasai, your voice silences the typhoon,

the tempest will not cross your path,

you are White, Black, Mediterranean, an Arab

spiced of the Orient and bathed in the Nile

you carry everywhere the beauty of the human race.



Baraka on you.

You are the mid-day sun which raises the flag of liberty,

you are the lifeblood of desert land,

nourishing fresh water which will bathe barren fields.

You are the true compass of quality, the saving lightning bolt

after torrential struggles.

Your stride is more regal than an ostrich

prominent in the eyes of Chaka the Zulu and Sundjiata the Mandingo



all lost hopes res ton you.

You have won already, now the only thing left to do is to don the rainbow.

Remember the hands whipped in the coffee and cacao plantations

remember centuries of tears and laments,

the gagged mouths, the cut-out tongues, the lacerated skin.

Remember the noble blood of those sacrificed in the streets to regain freedom.

But forgive and extend your mercy to all.

Be as merciful as Mother Theresa.

You are the trumpet and the drums,

you play the music that softens empty hearts.

Thread the needle to stitch over our shameful past,

light the Black coal to illumine the Statue of Liberty.

If I could,

I would give you Aimé Césaire’s horse

and with its tongue you could nourish the tongue-less mouths.

If I could,

I would give you the words of Senghor to nourish the gardens of Washington.

If I could,

I would offer you the purifying baths of Timbuktu.

In your heart, all the Blacks read hope;

in your gaze, the future of the world; and from your epic path,

the long-awaited victory of humanity.



from my goat-skin drum,

and my ancestral staff sculpted in the roots of the Tamarind tree,

springs forth the royal scepter to crown you:

the legendary son, born in a tiger’s den

baptized in the midst of lions.

Your name chosen in the nights redolent with memories,

with your quick step, I will sing of your Olympian heart.



may the moon hang your name in triumphant skies,

may the sun protect you from the poisonous thorns.

I have already sown the mimosa seeds,

and when their freshness fills my house in November

brotherhood will win over hatred and inequality.


Translation of CANTO PER OBAMA by Cheikh Tidiane Gaye
Translated from Italian by Emilie Judge-Becker as a final project for ITL 340  (Theory and Practice of Translation, Professor Giovanna Bellesia. Smith College, Fall 2012)



*Baraka: in Arabic means blessing.







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