Zimbabwe: Letter to my unborn child (excerpt) | Batsirai Chigama

Child
I want you to be proud in your skin
So comfortable no one can convince you otherwise
Be weary of brain-pickers i would say
Those who will pick on your brains with shamboks
Like they did on the backs of grandma
In the cotton plantations
Just like your daddy
You will be gifted with brawn
But child that does not mean you are to be a slave
And when you are old like these locks
Tying my world together, at 8
I want your world to be open
To  limitless possibility
I want you to be brave
Just like me when I brought you into this world
To labour for your own happiness
To strive to cut the fences, prejudices
Around the skin you will unashamedly be proud of
Child I seek you to find
All-weather wings
A heart as warm
I want you to find love
Give love
And above all, I want you to be you…

Batsirai E. Chigama is a spoken word poet from Zimbabwe. Her work has been featured in nine poetry anthologies in USA, England, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Batsirai has participated in a number of festivals and her work is featured on Badilisha Poetry X-Change (Cape Town) and Indiefeed (USA). A published short-story writer, Batsirai also writes on the arts and culture in Zimbabwe, Zimbo Jam. Her website is http://www.batsiraichigama.maumbile.com/ 

Read the Full Poem Here

Zambia: Absentee Husband | Denny Moonde

Its late in the night has he called you yet?
Is he heaven sent?
How can love be absent?
Is what you share fair and decent?

You cry silently, gravely torn.
You have been left on your own
The conclusion is foregone
Where he is you are forgotten.

Maybe he bumped into some bar lady
And forgotten about his fairlady.
To her he sings the same melody
That makes him part of your body

In the bar past midnight staggering with stardom
He must be a big don
His table full of intoxicating liquor
Oblivious of a marriage in troubled water.

 

Denny Moonde is a poet from Lumwana, Zambia.

Uganda: Falling | Betty Kituyi

The rain is gently
clapping at the rocks
outside my kitchen.

Its music
waters
my desert.

A new song forms,
the sound of raindrops
washing my face.

The rain is steadily
Taking me home
By twilight.

I am learning
from the weeping clouds
that falling isn’t dying.

Betty Kituyi is a writer and scientist from Uganda. She is the coordinator of Café Scientifique-Uganda, a robotics program for youth, and the third winner of the fourth BN Poetry Award, 2012, Uganda. She is also a high school educator with decades of experience in the Ugandan education sector.

Tunisia: The Beauty of Tunisian Women | Ali Znaidi

The beauty of Tunisian women
comes w/ the scents of spring,
the roses of spring,
& the almonds of spring.
Though anchored in history & myths,
the beauty of Tunisian women
is always in bloom.
It always opens onto expansive skies.
The beauty of Tunisian women
is always free, & it won’t be ever
your fuel to burn aesthetics & free will.
& it won’t be ever
your flour to bake new bread of fear.

 

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia where he teaches English. His work has appeared in Mad SwirlStride MagazineRed FezBlazeVox,Otolithsstreetcake, and elsewhere. His debut poetry chapbook Experimental Ruminations was published in September 2012 by Fowlpox Press (Canada). He reviews Tunisian literature at http://tunisianlit.wordpress.com and blogs at aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

Togo: Thank You for Being a Woman | Jémima Fiadjoe-Prince Agbodjan

Thank you for being a woman
For having been born
To know the pain of childbirth;
For having nursed my mother’s breast
To know the joy and happiness of offering my milk;
For having been carried on her back
To learn how to strengthen my back
For having known the tenderness of this maternal heart
To learn how to have a child’s heart.

Thank you for being a woman
For being at the school of prudence
Of endurance and of patience
In order to be guardian of the hearth
To insure its protection and fulfilment;
For being a nest of clear and creative thoughts
For being the welcoming earth where grow
              The seeds of the future

Thank you for being a woman
For being beauty and softness
For being light and warmth
For being discretion and lobe
And finally, more than anything,
For being born to give,
To give my Peace for the Peace
OF HUMANITY.

Jémima Fiadjoe-Prince Agbodjan studied medicine at the University of Dakar and then in France at the University of Lille. She works as a pediatrician in Lomé, Togo

 

Culled from Scottish Poetry Library

Tanzania: The Well|Euphrase Kezilahabi

In the birthplace of civilisation
the spring of health is open to all.
The croaking frogs draw us closer,
their chorus leading the giant
who approaches with long, loping strides.
A copper dagger pierces his navel.
With a bow and arrow clasped in his hands
he kneels down by the spring,
ready to attack anyone who approaches:
a hero never dies surrounded by thieves,
a hero dies like alone, like a wounded lion.

We cannot draw water from the well any longer
and the ink in our pens has run dry.
He who presses on with the pen
will be called a hero of deceit.
He who is fearful yet stands firm,
even unsupported,
will open the opposite door:
that between wisdom and understanding –
the first generation we behold.

KISIMA

Kisima cha maji ya uzima ki wazi
Na vyura katika bonde la taaluma watuita
Tujongee kwa mahadhi yao
Yaongozayo pandikizi la mtu
Kwa hatua ndefu litembealo
Na sindano ya shaba kitovuni
Upinde na mishale mkononi
Kisha likapiga goti kisimani
Tayari kumfuma akaribiaye
Maana shujaa hafi miongoni mwa wezi
Bali kama simba mawindoni.

Hatuwezi tena kuteka maji
Na kalamu zetu zimekauka wino.
Nani atamsukuma kwa kalamu
Aitwe shujaa wa uwongo!
Aliyeitia kitovuni kwa hofu
Ingawa tegemeo hakulipata
Alifungua mlango uelekeao
Katikati ya ujuzi na urazini mpya
Mwanzo wa kizazi tukionacho.

Euphrase Kezilahabi is a Tanzanian poet, novelist, and scholar, and is the most widely acknowledged contemporary Swahili author. He was one of the first African writers to publish a collection of free verse poetry in Swahili, his first collection, Kichomi (Twinge) was published in 1974 and led the movement for free verse Swahili poetry. Other collections include Karibu ndani (Welcome Inside, 1988) and Dhifa (Feast, 2008).

 

Translated by Katriina Ranne
Culled From: The Poetry Translation Workshop

Swaziland: The true view of my country (excerpt) | Jahings Dada

My country is not white in color

My country is painted white

Swaziland is a dark black country

But so colorful

Colored white

Our voices are not heard in Africa

Our tears are not seen across the world

Our feelings are not noted in Africa

Our funerals are not counted in Africa

Our unjust imprisonments are not considered across the world

 

Are we in a different plant?

Is this Pluto

 

To Africa I sing this song

To the world I throw these words

We need a better Swaziland

We need a better country

A free Swaziland

A living, not leaving Swaziland

As we die of poverty some are dying of obesity

A true picture of my country

My country

 

Sudan: A Body |Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

The body of a bird in your mouth
breathing songs.
Raw light spills from your eyes,
utterly naked.

You must breach the horizon, once,
in order to wake up.
You must open window after window.
You must support the walls.

I let alphabets cling to me
as I climb the thread of language
between myself and the world.
I muster crowds in my mouth:
suspended between language and the world,
between the world and the alphabets.

I let my head
listen to the myth,
to all sides praising each other.
And I shout at the winds from the top of a mountain.

Why does my tongue tell me to climb this far?
What is the distance between my voice and my longing?
What is there?

A body transcending my body.
A body exiled by desire.
A body sheltered by the wind.

 

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was born in Sudan in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman-Khartoum. His first two books, Ghina’ al-‘Uzlah (Songs of Solitude), and Matahat al-Sultan(The Sultan’s Labyrinth), were published simultaneously in 1996, immediately establishing him as a poet of great significance. His third collection, Aqasi Shashat al-Isgha’ (The Limits of the Screen of Listening), appeared in 2000 and a volume of his collected poems was published in 2009. Saddiq is alive to the complexities of his position as an African poet writing in Arabic. His desire to articulate those contradictions leads him to write poems that fuse complex imagery with Sudanese history.

Translated by: Atef Alshaer
Culled From: Poetry Translation and Poetry International

South Sudan: Child cry of war | Onam Liduba

I was found along the road side in open ash air
I grew like a child of leach
No mother and no father
I feed on bitter leaves and roots in the desert
I stay in rain and hot sun for fear
Are all children in the same condition?
No, a child elsewhere enjoys the calm blue sky
And the love of his parents
A fox has a den and a bird has nest
But the child of war has nowhere to lay his head
For fear of bombs and bullets in southern Sudan
O God lift up this child of war

 

 

Onam Liduba was born in  Southern Sudan. Displaced by the war, he lived in different refugee camps where he attended and then taught secondary school classes. In 2000, Liduba was granted asylum by the U.S., and in 2001, he was sent to Chicago where earned multiple degrees. In 2007, Liduba founded a non-profit organization called the Pari People Project to build a clinic and to provide school supplies for students in the Lafon area of Sudan.

South Africa: Men in Chains | Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali

The train stopped

at a country station.

Through sleep curtained eyes

I peered through the frosty window,

and saw six men:

men shorn

of all human honour

like sheep after shearing,

bleating at the blistering wind,

‘Go away! Cold wind! Go away!

Can’t you see we are naked?’

They hobbled into the train

on bare feet,

wrists handcuffed,

ankles manacled

with steel rings like cattle at the abattoirs

shying away from the trapdoor.

One man with a head

shaven clean as a potato

whispered to the rising sun,

a red eye wiped by a tattered

handkerchief of clouds,

‘Oh! Dear Sun!

Won’t you warm my heart

with hope?’

The train went on its way to nowhere.

 

Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali was born in KwaZulu-Natal in 1940. Apartheid legislation prevented his enrolment in University after he finished secondary school, but he studied via correspondence, obtaining a diploma with Premier School of Journalism and Authorship, affiliated to London University. He worked as a messenger in Johannesburg, drawing on his observations of the city to write his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum. Published in 1971, this book went on to become the best-selling poetry book in South African history.

Following the his successful debut, Mtshali studied at the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. This was followed by undergraduate studies at the New School of Social Research, and an MFA from Columbia University. His second collection, Fireflames, was published in 1980. He taught in the USA until his return to South Africa in 2007. His focus now includes the lexicography of Zulu, a translation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ into this language, and the collection and recording of its folk songs.