Poem by Patrick Chamoiseau

June 2017

Translated from the original French by Charly Verstraet and Jeffrey Landon Allen

No Death Can
(For Derek Walcott)

There are so many oak trees in Atlanta that moan still
Fields that mourn
That also sing
And that imprint upon capsules of cotton unbelievable torsions!

It is this mixture
It is this torsion
This most unbearable that coats the takeoff of beautiful and sole images!

May the sea more than History to you be gentle
May she commemorate you
May the archipelago more than country make of you a necklace

May that which mixes
in watercolor and in Shakespeare
in tales, theater, and books
prepare for you a throne of seafoam
where you will come to sit with the green mango from places beyond the day.

O sole language of salt to the eyelid touched
O laughter within friendship sealed
May poetry tremble not!
May poetry pass not!

whatever is said whatever is done
no death knows
when that which remains
is meshed with all that celebrates that welcomes that embraces
and that ties.

In us, no death can.


Patrick Chamoiseau was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique. His first novel, Chronique des sept misères, was published in 1986, followed by Solibo magnifique in 1988. In 1992, Chamoiseau became internationally acclaimed for his publication of Texaco, which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt. After writing several short stories, essays, plays, film scripts, and novels, Chamoiseau was bestowed the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (2010) by the French Minister of Culture, as a recognition for his contribution to arts and literature.

Charly Vestraet is a PhD student in the department of French and Italian at Emory University. His interests lie at the crossroads of postcolonial, environmental, and migrant literature during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He is currently writing a dissertation on the representations of the coastline in Caribbean literature, painting, and photography.

Jeffrey Landon Allen is a senior lecturer of French and Italian in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at North Carolina State University. He is currently finishing his dissertation in educational research and policy analysis at NCSU.