Vanity: A Poem by Birago Diop

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Birago Diop: Vanity

If we tell, gently, gently,
All that we shall one day have to tell,
Who then will hear our voices without laughter,
Sad, complaining voices of beggars,
Who indeed will hear them without laughter?

If we cry roughly of our torments,
Ever increasing from the start of things,
What eyes will watch our large mouths,
Shaped by the laughter of big children,
What eyes will watch our large mouths?

What hearts will listen to our clamouring?
What ear to our pitiful anger?
Which grows in us like a tumor
In the black depths of our plaintive throats?

When our Dead come with their Dead,
When they have spoken to us in their clumsy voices,
Just as our ears were deaf!
To their cries, to their wild appeals
Just as our ears were deaf!

They have left on the earth their cries,
In the air, on the water,
Where they have traced their signs for us: blind, deaf and unworthy Sons
Who see nothing of what they have made
In the air, on the water, where they have traced their signs.

And since we did not understand the dead
Since we have never listened to their cries
If we weep, gently, gently,
If we cry roughly to our torments
What heart will listen to our clamouring
What ear to our sobbing hearts?

The different meanings of vanity

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

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