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Mandela – Poem
By Mohamed Hashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’
The poem is under my hand.
The images crowd my head.
Poetry is the way To get this story told.
Poetry has the strength To tell the story well, As long as the images hold, As long as the poem writes.
The Oppressor comes into court.
He is the Prosecutor, He is the Judge and Jury;
There is no ‘win or lose’ - The case is cut and dried.
The Defendant stands alone.
The Prosecutor calls Himself as Witness — yes, The Judge upholds the law That he himself created:
It changes as he chooses.
The Jury only knows One word — the word is ‘Guilty’.
This poem is a gun.
This poem’s an assassin.
Images mob my mind...
This pen’s a spear, a knife, A branding-iron, an arrow Tipped with righteous anger.
It writes with blood and bile.
I take this bitter ink, Blood-red, to make my mark;
Corruption from the wound, Sap from the poison-tree, Aloe and gall and myrrh.
This poem’s a loaded gun, This verse a Kalashnikov.
I aim it at the snake That slithers to our children And strikes! See where the tell-tale Blood-beads pearl on the skin.
The snake, the Prosecutor, The Oppressor, the Judge, the Jury - You must always aim for the head.
This poem is a gun And words are ammunition.
This poem tells a story That can’t be cut or censored.
This poem’s not up for sale, It can’t be bought as men And cattle can be bought, So don’t make me an offer, Put your money back In your purse... But you can listen, Everyone can listen, Not just the great and good, Not just Nelson Mandela.
Judge and Jury, listen!
Policeman, come and listen!
Turnkey, come and listen!
You who perjure, listen!
You who torture, listen!
I want you to hear this poem;
I want you to hear me speak As if I were Mandela.
I speak for him — Mandela.
I speak for an angry man, A man whose voice was stopped, A man whose mouth was gagged Because he once said, ‘No!’
‘No!’ to the Prosecutor, ‘No!’ to the Judge and Jury, ‘No!’ to injustice, ‘No!’
To indignity and oppression.
He says, ‘Don’t think I’m beaten;
Don’t think of me as weak Or wretched. I’m no slave.
I’m not destitute Although they stole from me.
I’m not without a home Although my land’s been taken.
Don’t pity me; don’t tell me I’ll have my chance at glory.
Didn’t Jesus ask us To turn the other cheek And give the Fool who slaps us Another chance to show us Just how much he hates us?
And if that Fool should kill me:
Tell me, who’s the victor?
He thinks of me, that man, As someone who has no one:
No friends, no family, No allies, no supporters.
He cannot see the circle - Right round the globe — of people, All races, colours, creeds, Calling out for justice.
If I say I’m hungry I mean hungry for justice.
If I say I’m hog-tied I mean hog-tied by lies.
If I say I’m blind, I’m blind to compromise.
If I say an angel Stands at my right shoulder I mean ‘Angel of Death’, I mean ‘Death in Disguise’.
Everything I’ve suffered, Everything I’ve dreamed of, Are mine and mine alone.
The Judge and Jury know me.
They know what I have suffered.
They think that what I’m thinking Is what they think I’m thinking.
It’s not. If I say ‘Angel’ I mean Angel of Death.
I mean the Angel’s shadow That darkens all my thinking.
The brush they use to sweep My thoughts out of the door Is worn down to the shaft.
Only the thoughts are left.
The snake-bite and the blood-beads, The blood-beads and the poison, Are my immunity.
Once my sleep was dreamless, Once my mind was blank;
Now my dreams are rich, My every thought is clear.
Now I see a way - A way others have taken;
It’s called the Road to Freedom.
I want you to hear him speak:
Hear Mandela’s wisdom.
Listen, all who hear me, All who think as I do.
Abu Hadra — hear me!
Poet and friend, now listen!
I know you’ll understand.
This poem’s a ransom-note, Blood-money to the many Who cry aloud for justice.
It’s payback to Mandela And everything he stands for And everyone he speaks for.
This poem has a blade Hidden at its heart.
That steel will last forever!
So listen, Abu Hadra!
If you will listen, others Will listen too, will hear The words as if Mandela Was calling them to arms.
They’ll grasp the blade that’s hidden Deep inside this poem;
They’ll show the Jude and Jury The cutting-edge of freedom;
They’ll show the Prosecutor The blade that lasts forever;
They’ll never bow their heads Or walk in chains and fetters.
This poem is a mirror I’ve made for us, Hadraawi, A mirror we can hold up To show the ignoramus The depth of self-deception That lies in his reflection;
To show the Judge and Jury How the wide world sees them;
To show the man who takes Pleasure in pain the guern Of glee that warps his smile.
Hadraawi, read this poem To anyone who’ll listen.
Help them to find the voice I’ve given to Mandela.
And tell them this: our purpose Is peace; our password ‘Freedom’;
Our aim, equality;
Our way the way of light.
Translated by David Harsent About the poet Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’ was born in Hargeysa in 1949 and lives there now. He attended school in Sheikh in Somaliland and then graduated in biology at the Somali National University following which he was a teacher for several years. As a keen poet and literary scholar also he later worked at the Academy of Culture in Mogadishu and then as a lecturer in Somali literature at National University. From the 1970s onwards he has been one of the most important Somali poets composing on a great variety of topics from nuclear weapons to Nelson Mandela. He was also a poet who was not afraid to engage in the politics of Somalia through his poetry and he was the initiator of one of the largest ‘chain poems’, Deelley, to which many poets contributed each one alliterating in ‘d’ hence the name of the chain. In addition to his poetry composition Gaarriye was the person who first articulated the metrical patterns of Somali poetry which he published in 1976 in a number of articles in the national newspaper of the time. More translations of his verse can be read at www.poetrytranslation.org
Source: The Times Online, August 8, 2009