22 June 1937

On 22 June 1937, the poet Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, born in Madagascar, committed suicide by swallowing 10 grams of potassium cyanide. We don’t know for certain the year of his birth, 1901 or 1903. On the first assumption, he would have died at 36, my age when writing this poem.

To be and to choose not to be:
the question to be deciphered
in a time that will be without me.

I say farewell to the man I am.
It still cloys in my mouth this dirty taste
of a salt that dissolves in my blood,
making darkness fall on my flesh.

I kiss the pictures of my family –
I hope they accomplish the cycle of life.
I send Baudelaire’s books a kiss –
I want the dance of sounds to cease.

No more fear, I cast off my anchor –
my boat seeks no more harbours,
only the river-mouth of the myth that made me.

I capsize in the silence that surges without yielding.

My words end.
I end.
I begin not to be.