To New York

(for jazz orchestra and trumpet solo)

New York! At first I was bewildered by your beauty,
Those huge, long-legged, golden girls.
So shy, at first, before your blue metallic eyes and icy smile,
So shy. And full of despair at the end of skyscraper streets
Raising my owl eyes at the eclipse of the sun.
Your light is sulphurous against the pale towers
Whose heads strike lightning into the sky,
Skyscrapers defying storms with their steel shoulders
And weathered skin of stone.
But two weeks on the naked sidewalks of Manhattan—
At the end of the third week the fever
Overtakes you with a jaguar's leap
Two weeks without well water or pasture all birds of the air
Fall suddenly dead under the high, sooty terraces.
No laugh from a growing child, his hand in my cool hand.
No mother's breast, but nylon legs. Legs and breasts
Without smell or sweat. No tender word, and no lips,
Only artificial hearts paid for in cold cash
And not one book offering wisdom.
The painter's palette yields only coral crystals.
Sleepless nights, O nights of Manhattan!
Stirring with delusions while car horns blare the empty hours
And murky streams carry away hygenic loving
Like rivers overflowing with the corpses of babies.

Now is the time of signs and reckoning, New York!
Now is the time of manna and hyssop.
You have only to listen to God's trombones, to your heart
Beating to the rhythm of blood, your blood.
I saw Harlem teeming with sounds and ritual colors
And outrageous smells—
At teatime in the home of the drugstore-deliveryman
I saw the festival of Night begin at the retreat of day.
And I proclaim Night more truthful than the day.
It is the pure hour when God brings forth
Life immemorial in the streets,
All the amphibious elements shinning like suns.
Harlem, Harlem! Now I've seen Harlem, Harlem!
A green breeze of corn rising from the pavements
Plowed by the Dan dancers' bare feet,
Hips rippling like silk and spearhead breasts,
Ballets of water lilies and fabulous masks
And mangoes of love rolling from the low houses
To the feet of police horses.
And along sidewalks I saw streams of white rum
And streams of black milk in the blue haze of cigars.
And at night I saw cotton flowers snow down
From the sky and the angels' wings and sorcerers' plumes.
Listen, New York! O listen to your bass male voice,
Your vibrant oboe voice, the muted anguish of your tears
Falling in great clots of blood,
Listen to the distant beating of your nocturnal heart,
The tom-tom's rhythm and blood, tom-tom blood and tom-tom.

New York! I say New York, let black blood flow into your blood.
Let it wash the rust from your steel joints, like an oil of life
Let it give your bridges the curve of hips and supple vines.
Now the ancient age returns, unity is restored,
The reconciliation of the Lion and Bull and Tree
Idea links to action, the ear to the heart, sign to meaning.
See your rivers stirring with musk alligators
And sea cows with mirage eyes. No need to invent the Sirens.
Just open your eyes to the April rainbow
And your eyes, especially your ears, to God
Who in one burst of saxophone laughter
Created heaven and earth in six days,
And on the seventh slept a deep Negro sleep.

by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Comments (3)

this is the Italian version of Senghor's poem '' J’ai fait retraite '' : MI RITIRO Mi ritiro a Popenguine-la-Sérène ritorno agli elementi primordiali All’acqua – dico – al sale, al vento, alla sabbia, al basalto e al grès come il gabbiano bianco e la nera anitra e il granchio rosa Oh! nutrirmi soltanto di pura passione, come di un latte ben fresco di cocco addormentarmi nel ricordo di te, al canto dei salici e delle tamerici. Ma già ti annunci con maree di settembre Onda lunga d’aromi di mente selvatiche.
another poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor: J’ai fait retraite J’ai fait retraite à Popenguine-la-Sérère, Retourné aux éléments primordiaux A l’eau je dis au sel, au vent au sable, au basalte e tau grès Comme la blanche mouette et comme le canard noir, le crabe rose. Me nourrir seulement de passion pure, comme d’un lait et très frais de coco M’endormir sous le souvenir de toi, au chant des prosopis des filaos. Mais dèjà tu t’es annoncée aux marées de septembre Forte houle d’odeurs du côté des menthes sauvages.
pity there is only 1 poem, at PH, by this important poet.. Here is the text of another poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor: 'Night in Sine' Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow, Your hands softer than fur. Above us balance the palm trees, barely rustling In the night breeze. Not even a lullaby. Let the rhythmic silence cradle us. Listen to its song. Hear the beat of our dark blood, Hear the deep pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages. Now sets the weary moon upon its slack seabed Now the bursts of laughter quiet down, and even the storyteller Nods his head like a child on his mother's back The dancers' feet grow heavy, and heavy, too, Come the alternating voices of singers. Now the stars appear and the Night dreams Leaning on that hill of clouds, dressed in its long, milky pagne. The roofs of the huts shine tenderly. What are they saying So secretly to the stars? Inside, the fire dies out In the closeness of sour and sweet smells. Woman, light the clear-oil lamp. Let the Ancestors Speak around us as parents do when the children are in bed. Let us listen to the voices of the Elissa Elders. Exiled like us They did not want to die, or lose the flow of their semen in the sands. Let me hear, a gleam of friendly souls visits the smoke-filled hut, My head upon your breast as warm as tasty dang streaming from the fire, Let me breathe the odor of our Dead, let me gather And speak with their living voices, let me learn to live Before plunging deeper than the diver Into the great depths of sleep. (translated by Melvin Dixon)