The River in the Belly
, the second collection by award-winning poet Fiston Mwanza Mujila to appear in English, will be published by Deep Vellum next week in J. Bret Maney's translation. In short “solitudes,” including the two that appear below, Mujila meditates on the Congo River, exile, and memory.
I don’t live in exile
exile lives in me
I sling the world
over my shoulder
my left hand
and my side
deprived of the good Lord and birdsong
I am myself exile
myself askew . . .
I see your sparkling eyes again
like the dying flames
of a fire
I try to speak to you about the Congo River . . .
at its mouth in Moanda . . .
I try to sketch the Missouri for you
pitching itself into the Mississippi . . .
I try to revive for you
the concerto-cries of these migrating birds
as they swoop through depths of sky . . .
I try to tell you the Sahel’s true name
I try to trace your unspoiled face with my fingers
I try, I try, I try . . .
but you are not here . . .
From The River in the Belly, copyright 2021 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Translation © 2021 by J. Bret Maney. Reprinted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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The Memory of Our Land: Writing in and from Exile