Literary Zone

Poetry: The Belly Remains

17 April 2018 at 05:49 | 12079 views

The Belly Remains

By Tchicaya U Tam’si, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sure the belly remains chaste
under a treasure of white bones
then open to a fighter’s song
lost body and soul
in the flames of his passion
As at Mont Ségur
As elsewhere where
a feast of fallow bodies
invents tortures.

Bannered at the spectacle made of it
one hears chimings a-rattle
from one song to the other
under an own sky
when one no longer knows
in what night were lost
the body and wherewithal of a crown
got it in the spine and on the chin.

Sure, the belly remains.
Is it more filthy than chaste?
Because of certain heartbreaks?
Love for love’s
sake is as depressing as the rest.
But love for life’s sake
the one one gives with the belly
the earth takes charge of it
Thank god the visionaries fall
most often on their backs
most often with arms open wide
most often
with their belly skyward!

Translated from French by Pierre Joris.

About Tchicaya Utamsi

Tchicaya U Tam’si (born August 25, 1931 in Mpili; died April 22, 1988 in Bazancourt, near Paris) was a Congolese author. His official name is Gérald-Félix Tchicaya; his artist name means small paper that speaks for a country in Kikongo.


U Tam’si spent his childhood in France, where he worked as a journalist until he returned to his homeland in 1960. Back in Congo, he continued to work as a journalist; during this time he maintained contact with the politician Patrice Lumumba. In 1961, he started to work for UNESCO.

Since 1989, the Tchicaya U Tam’si-Award is given every two years for African poetry in the small Moroccan city of Asilah.


U Tam’si’s poetry incorporates elements of surrealism; it often has vivid historic images, and comments on African life and society, as well as humanity in general.