Poetry by Monchoachi

Translations by Chris Monier.

• February 2018

Excerpts from L’espère-geste (2002) by Monchoachi.  


The sea at noon on its knees before
Inextinguishable Our Lady of the Roses
Illuminated by bouquets of flowers
Behind the portal’s blue
On a rock that reveals and isolates
A darkening bust
Strewn with acrimonies.
The inscriptions on the arch are
From old books of magic, mystic tokens
Figures turned
In the direction of the invisible.


La mer à midi agenouillée aux pieds de
Notre-Dame-des-Roses inextinguible
Eluminée de bouquets de fleurs
Derrière le portail bleu
Sur la roche qui étage et aliène
Un poitrail alezan
Parsemé d’acrimonies.
Les inscriptions sur la voûte sont
Des grimoires, gages mystiques
Figures tournées
En direction de l’invisible.  



Now that you are breathing again,
That the flesh can bear its own weight
Your body that was knotted up like vinestock—

One morning the dead girl 
Was wrapped up in her shroud
Meanwhile the cat gave milk
To three kittens born with the last moon  
Searching in vain for
A breast. 

Consider my exasperation.

Unsayable tree whose means humiliate it 
And who scintillates.


Maintenant que tu respires
Que le poids de ta chair s’est allégé
Ton corps qui s’était noué comme le cep—

La fille morte de bon matin
S’est recroquevillée dans son linceul
Tandis que la chatte s’abandonne
Aux trois chatons nés avec la dernière lune
Qui cherchent à tâtons
Un sein.

Accueille mon exaspération. 

Arbre indicible accablé de ses rentes
Et qui scintille. 


Monchoachi is a Martinican poet and essayist whose language and form-spanning career has been significant in both Creole and French. Among his major works are the bilingual Mantèg (1980) and Nostrom (1982); the award-winning L’espère-geste (2002); and the contemporary epics Lémistè (2012) and Partition noire et bleue (Lémistè 2) (2015). 


Chris Monier, a native of south Louisiana, is a translator and doctoral student at Oxford University. His work takes a comparative approach to Caribbean poetry and is funded by the Creative Multilingualism research initiative.