Nha cretcheu, my love,
being together again will brighten our lives for at least thirty years.
I’ll come back to you strong and loving.
I wish I could offer you a hundred thousand cigarettes, a dozen fancy dresses, a car, that little lava house you always dreamed of, a threepenny bouquet.
But most of all, drink a bottle of good wine and think of me.
Here it’s nothing but work.
There are over a hundred of us now.
Two days ago, for my birthday, I thought about you for a long while.
Did my letter arrive safely?
Still nothing from you.
Some other time.
Every day, every minute, I learn beautiful new words for you and me alone made to fit us both, like fine silk pyjamas.
Wouldn’t you like that?
I can only send you one letter a month.
Still nothing from you.
Some other time.
I often get scared building these walls.
me with a pick and cement, you with your silence, a pit so deep, it swallows you up.
It hurts to see these horrors that I don’t want to see.
Your lovely hair slips through my fingers like dry grass.
Often, I feel weak and think I’m going to forget you.

English translation of Pedro Costa’s amalgamation of real letters from Cape Verdean emigrants to their families back home and Robert Desnos’ last letter sent to Youki before his death, as it appears in Casa de Lava (1994) and Colossal Youth (2006)

Mists and Rain

O ends of autumn, winters, springtimes drenched with mud,
Seasons that lull to sleep! I love you, I praise you
For enfolding my heart and mind thus
In a misty shroud and a filmy tomb.

On that vast plain where the cold south wind plays,
Where in the long, dark nights the weather-cock grows hoarse,
My soul spreads wide its raven wings
More easily than in the warm springtide.

Nothing is sweeter to a gloomy heart
On which the hoar-frost has long been falling,
Than the permanent aspect of your pale shadows,

O wan seasons, queens of our clime
— Unless it be to deaden suffering, side by side
In a casual bed, on a moonless night.

“Mists and Rain,” Charles Baudelaire

This place is so very deserted. There’s an emptiness here I only notice after I return from trips back home. Square miles of emptiness. Endless rows of trees and an unobstructed view of the sky. A city where everyone recedes into invisibility.


Someone hauls in her garments like slippery elusive fish from the washing line on a terrace seven thousand miles away. The night draws closer. The first stars and the yellow gas lights blink and flicker into existence. In the dark my cousin muses that a kitten’s cry sounds like the wail of a hungry infant.


The wisdom of rocks. The wisdom of matter. The wisdom of the changing form. The morphology of knowledge. The fluid traversal and then solidification of consciousness.