Josué Guebo

from 'The Song of Babo Naki'

Translated from the French by Janis A. Mayes

from The Song of Babo Naki


Miraculous constructions: Todd Fredson on Ivorian oral traditions

Building in the Côte d'Ivoire. Photo by Todd Fredson
Building in the Côte d'Ivoire. Photo by Todd Fredson

Todd Fredson's award-winning poetry collection, The Crucifix-Blocks, offers an epigraph by Cecília Meireles: "And Babel's workmen, dead by suicide." It's a line from Meireles' poem: "Speech," and it's been much in mind not only because of Todd's gorgeous and generous dispatch, but because I was recently in an airplane, peering out a small oval window into high-altitude blue over clouds, imagining what that fabled city might have looked like completed.

Would a person be able to spot its heavenward tower from a window seat at 500 miles per hour? Would its collaborative architecture be recognizable — spiral, terraced, trapezoidal? Would the clang of weights and pulleys ring from its walls?

Maybe such a structure can be perceived only by listening for a shared language buried inside a collective rubble of memory.

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