3 Poems by Moyi Mbourangon, Translated from French by Yarri Kamara

Illustration by Wilfried de Paul

We are of this century…

 Not the one that is gone
Perhaps the one coming
And as dreams burst seams
We will not rewrite the same story
Not with empty words
Not with human blood
Not with human flesh
Not with the winds of violence

The century will gobble no more
The horrors of centuries past
A new humanity is possible
—a new century too…
Illustration by Wilfried de Paul

We were…

Unarmed—hands up
Let us carry the frustrations
Of a whole world
On effusing signs
Letting transpire
The hopes grown limp
Of mothers who bore us
Their whole life and not once begrudged
The massacred dreams
Of fathers who poured us
Out into the shit-filled waters
Of the alleys of these ghettos
Where toiling to stay afloat
We became piercers of lies
Gashing up misleading roads

The street had to listen
And the village to receive
The exasperation of an era determined to vomit
Spitting out the errors of time offended

We had become
Sowers of sparks
Planters of lights
We were not alone
We are not alone
We will not be alone
You must not repaint History
To bury the errors of the past
You must undress it
YES—Naked in the public square
So that each can look at themself
To see the monster
That lies dozing in man
So that each can gaze at themself
To observe the hecatomb
That lies snoring in woman…
Illustration by Wilfried de Paul

The Pigheadedness of Bellies

The fainted consciences
The cobwebbed minds
The sidetracked feet 
The doggedness—the race to emptiness
Leaving bottoms lagging behind

It will be the path of losses
The impasse of hollow choices
The death of timid commitments
The collapse of thought…

The cackling of the sun that is coming
Grabs us by the legs
But still we run
Without thinking of the rains that come

We will awake with our feet in crap
Watching our era drag itself by the ass
As if we were not human(e) enough
To get back on track
Now that the lights are still orange…
Illustration by Wilfried de Paul

Author and Translator Bios


Moyi Mbourangon, aka Martial Pa’nucci, is a Congolese urban poet, rapper, and activist. Co-founder of the Congolese citizen movement, RAS-LE-BOL, he is currently exiled in Burkina Faso. These poems come from his second poetry collection #Pour Que l’Humain Survive [#So that the Human Survives] published in 2019 in Ouagadougou at the same time as the release of his third music album #SurLesCheminsDeLaRêv’olte [#OnThePathsOfDreamsAndRevolt]


Yarri Kamara is a Sierra Leonean translator and writer. She was awarded a 2020 PEN-Heim Translation Grant for her translation of Monique Ilboudo’s novel So Distant from My Life [forthcoming]. She studied French Language and Literature at the University of Virginia and holds a cum laude master’s degree from Sciences Po Paris. She currently lives in Burkina Faso.

Illustration by Wilfried de Paul

Cover Image: “Mask in Forest.” Credit to Yarri Kamara.

Illustration Credit: Wilfried de Paul

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