Poem of the Nile

by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

Prelude:
Walls climb the ivy
And Khartoum, poised on its unamputated foot
            Singing
Will the Nile ever escape into sleep?
We were the most loving of lovers, children trickling from us
What name do you give me?
I call you Presence of Earth
Come closer then
What will be the taste of grief?
…………………..
And we parted!

Sura:
The Nile flows quietly…
            Seeping through the city’s silence
                        And the burning sorrows of villages.

Now friends no longer exchange greetings each morning
            No longer recognize each other.
                        Everywhere one sees them, these one-time prophets,

Poverty-stricken, sipping their tea, their tears,
            Speechless.
                        They hide death in their fraying clothes,

And all they can say to our children is: patience.
            They fade into the trees, commit suicide
                        At night, derive from alcohol

Their arguments, embark on futile wars
            With their women, give up
                        Their prayers, then disappear.

Walls climb the ivy
And Khartoum, sitting in a café
                        Smoking
In the dark you can’t tell apart
Muggers from those whose journeys they’d cut short.
We were lovers, looking for our children
Who were breaking into bakeries, stealing fire
From the ovens’ throats.
What name do you give me?
I call you earth’s Fiery Anger
      So rise up
What will be the taste of ashes?
…………………….
And we parted!

Sura:
Fire is the opposite of Water
And Smoke is a memory that prepares us only for ash.
Water is the opposite of Fire
And the waves are like maps, rippling across the land.
And the girl? She is somewhere between this heart and this knife…

City – you’re a handful of grains of wheat, tucked
Into the purses of usurers and slave-traders.
            And the black men

Are approaching, approaching. River Nile
            To what deserts are you taking my reflections? You depart
                        And I stand among the horses, by your gate,

And my soul would embark on a holy journey too,
            For the silence suspended between us
                        Is a language floating among the ruins of a beautiful, vanished
                                                                                      past.

O River Nile, father
Were the trees merely windows reflecting women’s sorrows,
Or have your waters shattered their images,
Drowned the history of women,
And painted forever their meadows the colour of poverty?
Poverty invades the children’s playgrounds, leaving
Them silent, accursed, their heritage
Only anger and disbelief.
           
Sura:
The Nile opens his arms
Speaks to the migrant birds
                        Falls silent
Reigns
            And never sleeps
            Never sleeps

The Nile drinks dry the desert’s tavern,
Gets drunk on dumps of toxic waste,
Must survive in the city, falling apart
Each night, rising up through its history
            And never sleeps
            Never sleeps

The drums began with the sun
And its light filtered songs that entered into the pores of the soul.
In the river’s shallows boats sheltered from toil and wind.
Now the carnivals of the blacks take fire
And the Nile has burst through the layers of time.

And, see, the kingdom of Meroë appears
And the face of the Nubian lover
Who walks among the sorrows of the waterwheels
Searching for warriors among the horses.
Where does the line of ancestral blood begin
And when does the blood loss reach its climax,
O King Piankhy, enthroned ruler of Kush,
A kingdom unravelling in bitter silence?

Shout at the horses, and let
The waters ready themselves.
Let the maps explode. How can the land be lost
When the future belongs to the Nile?

The Nile knows of the disgrace of cities
That have vanished.
Knows of the old times
Yet never speaks.
It is the Nile…
Generations will pass, and there will always be children
Lingering on its banks,
Waiting
For it all to end.



The literal translation of this poem was made by Hafiz Kheir

The final translated version of the poem is by Mark Ford

Notes

Meroë: Capital city of the ancient Sudanese Kingdom of Kush.
King Piankhy: Kushite king who conquered Egypt.

Comments

  1. June 26th, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    ak says:

    Beautiful poem! What's the meaning of Sura?

    It's a 'verse' in the Quran

  2. June 27th, 2013 at 11:05 am

    yeab says:

    it is  very intersting poem.

  3. June 16th, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Vipin Choudhary says:

    beautiful poem

  4. August 17th, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    twana says:

    What can i do when every thing goes bad

  5. February 28th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Hassab alrasool says:

    Very good lyrics.

    Thank you very much Mr. Siddig hoping for you all success

    Hassab ALrasool

  6. October 12th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Bram Crevits says:

    The man writes beautiful poems! Thanks

  7. March 18th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Ehsan says:

    nice poems dude

  8. February 9th, 2010 at 4:03 am

    nancy says:

    love it

  9. September 15th, 2008 at 3:25 am

    afua cooper says:

    i am so touched by alsaddiq's poem. as a poet myself i find his words very moving and beautiful. thank you dear poet.

  10. June 30th, 2008 at 11:03 am

    abdallah bushra says:

    Thanks Alsadiq for the nice poetry. It is the long story of ninties which has never stopped. But we can say with pride that these are the words of our poet from Sudan.