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“Dear Husband”

Written by  Yamba Ouloguem

Once your name was Bimbircokak
And everything was fine.
Then you became Victor-Emile-Louis-Henri-Joseph

And bought a dinner set.
I used to be your wife.
Now you call me spouse.
We used to eat together.
Now we’re separated by a table.

Calabash and ladle,
drinking gourd and couscous
are banished from our daily fare
by your paternal order.

We’re modern now, you say.

The tropic sun is hot, hot, hot!
But your cravat
never leaves the neck
it nearly strangles.

You frown
when I mention it,
never mind, I’ll say no more.

But husband, look at me!

We eat grapes and
milk that’s pasteurized
and imported gingerbread from France
and don’t get much of any.
Isn’t it your fault?

You used to be Bimbircokak
and everything was fine.
Becoming Victor-Emile-Louis-Henri-Joseph
as far as I can see
doesn’t make you kin
to Rockefeller!
(Excuse my ignorance, I don’t know much
about finance.)
But can’t you see
Bimbircokak
—because of you—
once I was underdeveloped
now I’m undernourished, too!

Source: The Negritude Poets, ed. Ellen Conroy Kennedy. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1989.