Translated from the French by Todd Fredson
Author note: A fragment of the long poem Zakwato is published here. In the poem, Zakwato is trusted to be on watch for his village but falls asleep. He wakes to find his village decimated. Bereft, Zakwato travels toward a distant smith to have his eyelids removed. Like this, he will be forever vigilant of foreign invaders.
Miraculous constructions: Todd Fredson on Ivorian oral traditions
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.