Reading a poem by Flavien Ranaivo on the corner of Long and Wale Streets

“So tell me. What kind of crowd do you pull?” asks the man who stops to listen. “I mean how many people want to hear this poetry?”

“I don’t pull crowds. Mostly it’s just me, actually, under the highway bridge or on a corner, reading a poem.”

“So what’s the point? What you trying to prove?”

“Beauty. Pathos. Love.  A crowd isn’t necessary. The words are carried on the wind and by the traffic. They adhere to people’s hearts as they go by.”


“No. Wait. Don’t go. Listen to this one …”


Song of a common lover
Flavien Ranaivo

Don’t love me, my sweet,
like your shadow
for shadows fade at evening
and I want to keep you
right up to cockcrow;
nor like pepper
which makes the belly hot
for then I couldn’t take you
when I’m hungry;
nor like a pillow
for we’d be together in the hours of sleep
but scarcely meet by day;
nor like rice
for once swallowed you think no more of it;
nor like soft speeches
for they quickly vanish;
nor like honey,
sweet indeed but too common.
Love me like a beautiful dream,
your life in the night,
my hope in the day;
like a piece of money,
ever with me on earth,
and for the great journey
a faithful comrade;
like a calabash,
intact, for drawing water;
in pieces, bridges for my guitar.

Flavien Ranaivo (1914-1999) was a lyric poet influenced by Malagasy ballad and song form. He published three volumes of verse. He is one of the poets included in Africa! My Africa!


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