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Three poems by Léon Laleau

American Elsie

Elsie: you badmouth blackmen and halfbreeds.
Well, never mind – you were born in Houston.
But your flesh burns like a stove-boxed log
against mine to the Boston beat.

We’re the sleekest pair on the dancefloor.
The jazz trombone brays like a carhorn.
And I think while I consider your curves
they’d have lynched me in Wilsonland.


My heart doesn’t crack,
tight with troubles, anymore.
Who cares if roses, mimosas
don’t last two evenings?

What days deal me
matters less than this
cracked black jazz
all Europe is dancing to.


Mr Trombone comes from Honolulu.
Mr Saxophone comes from Barbados.
And the big halfcaste with a hairy nose
who’s snarling a comic song
jumped Port-de-Paix one night.

‘And which one,’
(And all with tight-tufty hair)
thinks the Belgian tart,
‘Which one shall I take home with me
so I don’t get bored tonight.’

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About the translation:
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Léon Laleau
John Gallas
Original language:
2014 Number 3 - The Singing of the Scythe

About the author

Original poet

Léon Laleau

Léon Laleau (1892–1979) was a Haitian writer and politician. His poem ‘Hot Ports’, also translated by John Gallas and Kurt Gan...

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John Gallas

JOHN GALLAS was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He has published ten collections of poetry with Carcanet Press and edited the...

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