Gambia: Death: A Millenial Meditation (excerpt)| Tijan M. Sallah

The capitalists of death

Never think they will die.

So is their perennial illusion, the Death Illusion.

I do not blame them for death is a coward.

For capitalists, mortality is for others; not for them.

Money will flow, and the body can be revamped;

Spare parts are many, the body will adjust.

Money will flow, and may be even buy immortality.

But, but… are they not mistaken?

 

 

Tijan M. Sallah is a Gambian poet, short story writer, biographer and economist at the World Bank.

 

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Gabon: Sabia the Arabian Mystic | Aida Touré

From the Black Light,
you blew particles
to the souls of the first soul,
gracefully holding the pen
of existence itself,
you dictated these secrets
to the euphoric beings
who embodied your cosmic,
whirling obscurity,
the very sign of Luminosity
Look, your ancient Scrolls
scurry across space still,
and moved, we shed tears!
O Eastern Wind,
you who selflessly taught
the Way of the pure Heart,
we rejoice for you have come
anew to mirror the glory
of Allahu’s Love!

 

Aida Touré was born in Gabon. She has multiple poetry collections including Unmanifest Poems (2000), The Sublime Sphere (2001), and Nocturnal Light (2003). In 2005 she took up painting as a way to convert the spirituality in her poems into a visual landscape of beauty. She has referred to this art work as Visual Sufi Poetry. She blogs at visualsufipoetry.com

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Ethiopia: Longing | Mengistu Lemma

The train hauled me out of London —
out of the smoke, the smog, the grime,
the filthy mix of soot and dust —
while the train spun fog from the fabric of steam,
clothing the land with its garment
of blessings and punishment,
Yizze kataf, yizze kataf, goes the powerful weaver.
Isn’t it amazing? Life’s a miracle:
coal smoke set free through the power of coal!

The carriage was big enough for ten,
but no one was brave enough to open the door
I’d shut fast to keep in the warmth.
Instead, they huddled in the corridor,
unwilling to share the warmth with a black man —
even though coal is black, even though
the wealth of England was forged by black coal.

The train whistled like a washint flute;
haystacks dotted the distant fields,
just like the straw roofs of houses in a village at home. And, in the blink of an eye, I turned into
‘a traveller of God’ in the meadows of England….

‘Greetings to your household’, I cried,
I am your “black”, your unexpected, guest:
your kindness to me will bring you God’s blessings’. ‘Welcome, come in!’, the head of the household replied. Then his wife brought a bowl of warm water,
and kneeling down happily to wash my feet,
‘Don’t be shy, my friend’, she said.

First my mouth blessed that tulla beer of Gojjam,
then a bowl arrived, and my empty stomach began to fill
as I licked the linseed oil of Gondar from my fingers;
next, chicken stew rich with curds. Contented,
I yawned. Sleep overcame me as I lay down
on fine cotton and was covered with wool….

Dimly, I heard the door slide open — but was fully awake
by the time it slammed shut. I jumped,
but then calmed myself down,
glowering at the reckless young man,
the brave one who’d dared to enter my den as I slept.
But his spotless shirt and neat matching tie made me laugh: he was so amazingly clean!

 

Mengistu Lemma (1928-1988) was a playwright and poet of the post-1941 period in Ethiopian Amharic literature.

 

Translated by Martin Orwin and The Poetry Translation Center. 

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

 

Eritrea: Virginity | Ribka Sibhatu

To a bride, her virginity can be more important than her eyes. In
our tradition, if a bride isn’t a virgin, the day after her wedding, we
return her to her parents’ house, dress her in a wonciò, and set her on a donkey. This is considered a disgrace by the whole family. During the war, people fled the city for the countryside. To adapt, you had to make sacrifices, like carrying twenty litres of water on your shoulders, even if the well was three or four kilometres away. In 1981, I was a refugee in Adi Hamuscté, some twenty kilometres from Asmara. One afternoon, a handsome youth and four old men came to the house where I was staying, and explained that the young man, whom I’d never seen before, wanted to marry me, because a day earlier, he’d had the misfortune to discovered that his bride had been violated! If my father had agreed, and I’d refused their proposal, I’d have risked either being married off or being cursed by my father. The curse of a parent is a child’s worst fear. So I had an idea: to declare that I too had suffered an irreparable incident…! I leave you to imagine my father’s reaction who, in the eyes of our community, was also disgraced. This young man of ours left without a word in search of his virgin.

Original Poem (Translated by Andre Naffis-Sahely)

La verginità è importante come gli occhi, se non di più, per una sposa.
Nella nostra tradizione se una sposa non è vergine l’indomani del suo
matrimonio la si riporta a casa dei suoi le si mette addosso lo wonciò (*) e la si carica su un asino. Questo fatto è considerato una disgrazia per tutta la famiglia. Durante la guerra la gente di città si era rifugiata nelle campagne. Per integrarsi ci volevano tanti sacrifici, per esempio si doveva portare una ventina di litri d’acqua sulle spalle anche se la sorgente si trovava a tre o quattro chilometri di distanza. Nel 1981 ero rifugiata ad Adi Hamuscté, una ventina di chilometri di Asmara. Un pomeriggio arrivarono, nella casa dove ero rifugiata,un bel giovanotto e quattro anziani e mi spiegarono che il giovanotto, che non avevo mai visto prima di allora, voleva sposarmi perché il giorno precedente aveva avuto la disgrazia di trovare una sposa violata! Se avessi rifiutato la proposta e se mio padre fosse stato d’accordo con lo sposo avrei rischiato o di essere sposata con la forza o di essere maledetta da mio padre. La maledizione dei genitori è molto temuta dai figli! A questo punto mi venne un’idea, quella di dichiarare d’aver avuto anch’io un incidente irreparabile…! Vi lascio immaginare la reazione di mio padre che nella nostra comunità venne anche lui considerato disgraziato. Il nostro giovanotto senza aprir bocca andò alla ricerca della vergine!

(*) una specie di coperta di lana ruvida, di colore nero, normalmente usata per la sauna tradizionale solo dalle donne.

Ribka Sibhatu is a poet from Eritrea who writes in Tigrinya and Italian. Her first published work was Aulò! Canto Poesia dall’Eritrea (1993), a collection of lyrics and prose poems. It was followed by Il Cittadino che non c’è. L’immigrazione nei media Italiani (1999 ), a sociological look at the Italian media’s coverage of immigrant communities. She speaks five languages and currently works as a social mediator, focusing on improving inter-cultural relations in state schools.

Culled from PoetryTranslation.org

Equatorial Guinea: Plaza de España| Marcelo Ensema Nsang

Cae la tarde cansada
sobre un ritmo de palmera
calzado de primavera
humana en voz desbandada.
Arriba, la luna ronda
su plata y, enamorada,
gira su gracia redonda
-entre el cortejo de arneses
guiñando luz estrellada-
por los góticos cipreses
que alzan una campanada.

English Translation by David Shook

The tired afternoon fell
upon a rhythm of palm
dressed in spring
human in dispersed voice.
Up(wards), the moon round (in)
its silver &, in love,
spins its round thanks
-between the courtship of harnesses
yawing starry light-
by the gothic cypresses
that raise a peal.

Marcelo Ensema Nsang is a poet from Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish speaking country in Africa. Marcelo left Guinea in 1961 to study at the seminary in Granada (Spain) and was ordained a priest in 1973. He returned to Equatorial Guinea in 1974.

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Egypt: (If the Sun Drowns) إذا الشمس غرقت | Ahmed Fouad Negm

If the sun drowns in a sea of clouds
And extends a wave of darkness onto the world
And vision dies in the eyes of the vigilant
And the road is lost in lines and circles
O shrewd traveler in straight lines and in circles,
You have no guide but the eyes of speech 

Arabic Original
إذا الشمس غرقت في بحر الغمام
ومدت على الدنــيا مــوجة ظــــلام
ومات البصر في العيـون والبصايــــر
وغاب الطريق في الخطوط والدواير
يا ساير يا دايــر يا ابــو المفهومــــية
ما فيش لك دليـل غير عيون الكلام

Ahmed Fouad Negm (1929-2013), popularly known as el-Fagommi الفاجومي, was an Egyptian vernacular poet. He was widely regarded for his work with Egyptian composer Sheikh Imam, as well as his patriotic and revolutionary Egyptian Arabic poetry.

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Culled from: http://revolutionaryarabicpoetry.blogspot.com/

Djibouti: Desire| Abdourahman A. Waberi

I am the rustling of the world

the swaying between here and elsewhere

the dumb foliage of the cactus

the coarse wood that covers the gecko

the bed for the world-book

whose pages are as many waves of the quest

endlessly begun again

 

Abdourahman A. Waberi is an award winning  poet, novelist, essayist, academic and short-story writer, born in Djibouti in 1965. His first volume of stories, Le Pays sans ombre received the Grand prix de la Nouvelle francophone and the Prix Albert Bernard. His books translated into English are Land Without Shadows (2005), In The United States of Africa (2009) and Passage of Tears (2011). He lives with his family in Caen, Normandy, where he works as an English teacher.

Translated by Patrick Williamson.

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Haunted Houses| Kama Sywor Kamanda

Now we have our doubts to cry over.
When identities and years
Become lost in the sands,
Our depressed towns
Smell of roses
Placed on tombstones.
Our houses, haunted
By long periods of solitude
Open up to waves of love,
As abundant as the sea of farewells.
Bitter offerings
People the spheres of our ambitions.
We seek our roots
Like others seek hidden truths.

Poem culled from Zocalo Poets.

Kama Sywor Kamanda is an award-winning writer and poet from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Cote d’Ivoire: If You Could | Assamala Amoi

If you could leave when work was done

Like the sun at the end of its day;

If you could arrive like the day and the night

At an hour chosen by the seasons;

If you could hear the farewells like the tree

Listens to the song of the migrating bird

– who would dread departures, returns and death?

.     .     .

“Si on pouvait”

Si on pouvait s’en aller à la fin de son ouvrage

Comme le soleil au terme de sa course;

Si on pouvait arriver comme le jour et la nuit

A l’heure choisie par les saisons;

Si on pouvait entendre les adieux comme l’arbre

Ecoute le chant de l’oiseau qui le quitte

Qui craindrait les départs, les retours et la mort?

 

Assamala Amoi was born in Paris in 1960, and lived in France with her parents until 1966. Upon her return to the Southern part of the Ivory Coast, she attended the University of Abidjan, where she graduated with a Masters in English Literature, and a Translator Certificate (French-English). From December 2000, she has worked for the World Health Organisation.

Poem culled from Zocalo Poets.

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Comoros: Moroni ma princesse | Soeuf Elbadawi

Moroni ma princesse
aux pieds pauvres
s’enrhume et s’enivre à grande eau
par jour de mauvais temps

mais que voulez-vous qu’on lui dise?
la vérité d’une inquiétude
ou le mensonge d’une nuit
d’orgie hors de prix?

le blues de Moroni.
cette ville si petite mais si unique

nous l’invoquons ce soir
pour panser les plaies
d’un peuple qui se déchire
au rythme d’un soap

notre rêve. s’il en est
est que cette ville devienne un jour
un amour d’utopie

et que l’apprentissage de la solitude
laisse place

à l’invention
d’une nouvelle fratrie
à qui l’irritation du monde
ne fera plus peur.

que Moroni devienne
une ville de tous les possibles

Soeuf Elbadawi was born in Moroni, the largest city of Comoros. A long time journalist, he served with Radio Comoros and Radio France International. He has written in newspapers such as Al-Watwan, Kashkazi, and Africultures. He blogs at http://muzdalifahouse.wordpress.com/.

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.