Email This Article Print This Article

The Divine Translation

Estelle Coppolani, trans. Wilson Tarbox

I was visited again yesterday. The end of work had given me back to the world.  I sat on a bench shaded by a large red palm tree, watching the nightfall. The ravine on the edge of which I sat held a fragrant rut, soaked with dead leaves and spoiled fruit. This natural repository had mixed the stench of several fallen lychee decomposed down to their oily entrails with the scents of macerated herbs. The hour came when the fading daylight shot its gilded rays on the surrounding pediments and sometimes also on a piece of exposed sheet metal or on a strip of cornice. I knew that for the next hour or two my skin would take on that sandy tint, while a small tribe of mosquitos drank themselves sick on blood like sour milk enclosed within my own veins.

A warmth infused my limbs, from my heels to my waist, from my waist to my throat and finally up to my forehead. I felt a change in my center of gravity. I became light. My vision blurred and sharpened in quick succession. My weakened legs received the ground more humbly, as well as the light of the setting sun which I could suddenly diffuse. I felt myself, wave after wave, flow and swoon.

It was then that I sang, I think, my most beautiful song. My throat unfurled the supple ribbon where its knotted secrets and ordeals were kept. The warm air torpefied the late afternoon. I sang with the serenity of a voice that hope has deserted, like a sailor who has ceased contemplating the sea, recognizing himself as a siren. It was like a prayer or a song of trust: I have long known that I possess the gift of sadness and that quietude also endures this liaison with dizziness.

A new range or some modulation of the wind (I don’t know) carried my swelling voice further than usual. My blood detected the complicity between contours, depths and plenitudes. My supple body grew heavy, like a massive branch loaded with ripe fruit.

Once the sun had set, everything happened very fast. Some faces had already appeared to me these last weeks and I knew that I only had to approach the edges of a temple or the cool liana curtains of a banyan tree to find them.  I was not the only one walking through the night. I discovered that other people had also been looking for me. ‘Surely we had heard the same voice! Yes, surely we had all been visited!’ I said. We started to walk with a cheerful and confident step.

On the way, we picked up more specimens. Descending from La Montagne towards the Barachois district, other steps fell behind ours. We were a united and guided soul; we marched on the city as one marches, in the middle of winter, on a carpet of embers after a long fast. We had not stone but water as our goddess: all flowing, escaping, singing—rushing water, the angry sister of the thirstiest ravines. On the Avenue de la Victoire, a choir tore down with great harmony the statue of a former governor of the Mascarene Islands. In a beat of the same rhythm, the monument was carted off to the ocean, which greedily swallowed it whole. A vow demanded it. It was yesterday night: the divine had married me and we had celebrated our union.

**

Estelle Coppolani is a writer, poet, and doctoral student in literature at the Université de Paris. Her dissertation ‘Le pari d’une poésie des îles. Regards sur Derek Walcott et Jean Fanchette’ looks at the relationship between transnational imaginaries and island poetic modernities.

Wilson Tarbox is an art historian, critic and doctoral student in art history at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His dissertation ‘La généalogie de Third Text, 1987-2019 : héritage intellectuel et dialogues postcoloniaux dans l’art contemporain à l’ère de la mondialisation’ examines the influence of postcolonial theory on art history.