(Ousmane Sembene, 1966)
I listened to the palavering: birds with car horns
as the sun went down. Once I began
to understand their conversations, I started my days
by eavesdropping like a citizen of privilege
and apathy. Antibes reminds me
of Dakar the way a new lover brings
to mind the mistakes I made with the one before.
As I pass other women in the marketplace,
home is soon clouded in memory
by the air of authority festering
behind sunglasses, amid cigarette smoke.
All faces look alike and no face reminds me
of anyone I knew from another life.
Yesterday, I was introduced as “our girl,”
a possessive I’ve never felt in my country.
The gift I offer now is a face behind a mask,
a mask of a face to haunt them
long after mine fades away behind it.
Dear young couple, you
who hired me to look after your young,
give up on the roman à clef in which you
imagined me as a nameless character.
Give up on subterfuge to control
the woman you imagined me to embody.
My body, lifeless, politically still,
still has a chance to rustle a few trees
inside your aristocratic heads.