Cape Verde: Postcards from the High Seas (i-v) | Cosino Fortes


Crioula, you will tell the guitar
Of the night, and the dawn’s small guitar
That you are a dark-skinned bride
with Lela in Rotterdam

You’ll never sell around the town
From door to door
The thirst for sweet water that slaps
In a tin can


In the morning
It snowed on the temples of Europe
The lamp of my hand is a caravel
Among the fjords of Norway

Since yesterday
It’s been raining on the prow
Steel rain that numbs
Our abandoned bones
gnomon of silence without memory

Since yesterday
The ship is the landscape of a blind soul
And your name upon the ocean
the sun in a fruit-tree’s mouth


I used to sell Kamoca
On the streets of New York

I’ve played ourin among the girders
Of skyscrapers under construction

In a building in Belfast
Remain the skulls and bones
Of my contemporaries
The blood remains
Alive in the telephones’ nostrils


The ears of the islander heard
The sun-drenched voice in the Olympian throat
Of a pestle in Finland

I saw patricians
clad in togas
Speaking Creole
In vast auditoria

Beyond the Pyrenees
there are blacks and blacks
Immigrants to Germany
in the soup-making countries
the blacks of Europe


Corsino Fortes is a poet from Cape Verde who writes in Portuguese. Fortes was born in 1933 in Mindelo on Cape Verde’s São Vicente island. He has worked as a teacher and a lawyer; he served as Cape Verde’s ambassador to Portugal; and he was a judge in Angola.The literal translation of this poem was made by Daniel Hahn. The final translated version of the poem is by Sean O’Brien. Culled from


The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.


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