Poetry Parnassus: They remain lying on the earth… (Benin)

Poetry Parnassus is a project of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. It ran from June 26 to July 1, featuring 145 poets from around the world. Here is the Guardian’s interactive map, where you can click on a country and read its poem. I will be posting them on a semi-regular basis until they’re done.

They remain lying on the earth, by Agnes Agboton (Benin)

They remain lying on the earth
the dark bodies of men
after a useless death
and in the hidden heart of the
the flame of hatred is still
ignorantly awake.
Useless hatred.

Inside a calm refuge
of beautiful walls
all has changed;
two important men have smiled
to each other,
they have shaken hands.

Again, all is useless,
the struggle of the living,
the death of the dead.
Again, all is useless,
the hunger…

• Translated from Gun into Spanish by Agnès Agboton,
and from the Spanish by Maya García Vinuesa.

• ‘They remain lying on the earth’ published in Wasafiri 56 (Winter 2008),
by permission of the author.

I don’t know if this is the poem above – probably not – and obviously I can’t understand the words, but it’s good to hear the spoken rhythms that are lost in translation. Sometimes hearing how someone speaks tells a whole story.

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