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Lake Chad

Озеро Чад

On mysterious Lake Chad
Among the ancient baobabs
Guided by majestic Arabs
The carved-out feluccas scud
Among the trees along the banks
And from foothills spread with green,
To terrible gods, the maidens chant,
Priestesses with ebony skin.

I was the wife of a mighty warrior,
The daughter of a great chief in Chad,
And I only throughout the rains of winter
Performed the sacred rites due to our god.
They said — a distance of a hundred miles
No woman’s glowing splendor was my like;
I never took the bracelets from my arms,
My amber necklace never left my neck.

A warrior, white and handsome, came,
His lips were red, his look was calm,
He commanded like a king;
He opened the doorway to my heart
And when a heart is whispering,
Do not fight and do not wait.
He said how unlikely was the chance
That any woman in all of France
Was seductive and fine like me
And so, as sun began to rise,
He saddled up his Berber steed
To carry away the two of us.

My husband pursued us with his ready bow,
Ran through the thickets and the underbrush,
Swam across the shallow murky lakes
Leaped over crevices on the plateau
And lived in agony of flesh and soul.
Only the eye of the sun’s fierce crush
Watched the nomad warrior’s corpse
In the fury of his shame where his body fell.

And on a swift strong camel’s back
Encased in caressing folds of fabric
And precious skins of wild beasts,
I was carried north like a rare bird,
Fluttering my fan into the air
And relishing the expected delights.
I parted the delicate folds that hid me
Inside the many-colored canopy
And daringly bent to the peep-hole
Where I saw how the sun glowed
In the European’s blue eyes.

Now like a dead fig tree in an oasis
Whose leaves have fallen and blown away,
I am the useless and boring mistress
Cast off like a mere thing in Marseilles.
In order to feed on scraps and leftovers,
In order just to live, I have to dance
Before the vulgar crowds of drunk sailors
And let them have what way with me they choose.
My timid mind grows weak with suffering,
My gaze is fading with each hour I live...
When will I die? Buried in fields forgotten,
My husband waits but never will forgive.

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