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after L’Homme Qui Te Ressemble − René Philombe I knocked at your door, I knocked at your heart, looking for a good bed, looking for a good fire. Why turn me away? Let me in, my friend! Why do you ask if I am from Africa, if I am from Asia, if I am from Europe, if I am from America? Let me in, my friend! Why do you ask the length of my nose, the size of my mouth, the shade of my skin, the name of my gods? Let me in, my friend! I am not a black, I am not a red, I am not a yellow, I am not a white. I am just like you. Let me in, my friend! Let me in your door, let me in your heart. Like you I am the one whatever age, the one in all the skies, the one who looks like you.
Aidan Rooney teaches at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts. His books include Go There (MadHat Press, 2020).
Translation copyright 2020 Aidan Rooney
René Philombe, born Philippe Louis Ombédé (1930 -2001) was a Cameroon poet and writer. A political activist from his teens, Philombe became a policeman in 1949. He unionized the police and became their union secretary in Douala. In the mid-1950s, after he was permanently crippled by spinal disease, he began writing seriously. His Lettres de ma cambuse (1964; “Letters from my Hut”) won the Prix Mottard of the Académie Française. His other published works include Sola, ma chérie (1966; “Sola, My Darling”), a novel about seemingly unjust marriage customs; Un Sorcier blanc à Zangali (1970; “A White Sorcerer in Zangali”), a novel about the effect of a missionary’s clash with the colonial administration in a small village; Choc anti-choc (1978), “a novel made of poems”; and Africapolis (1978), a tragedy. The latter two are both thinly veiled allegories of life under a malevolent dictatorship. Many of his patriotic literary activities earned him long periods in prison despite his infirmities. In 1981, his manuscripts were seized by authorities and destroyed.