I Am I

by Alamin Mazrui

They call me communist
They call me capitalist
They call me nationalist
But I am human -
Why is that not enough?

Countries set fire to themselves
While mothers grieve and weep
Children are suffering
from the words we use
          to kill and destroy

River -
We stand on your bank
tears falling on us
that stream into your heart

The literal translation of this poem was made by Katriina Ranne

The final translated version of the poem is by Katriina Ranne

Notes

This was another, relatively simple, poem that we translated fairly quickly. We settled on the title 'I Am I' - rather than 'I Am Me' - because that's what it says in the Swahili; and also because there's a slight echo of that Rastafarian statement, 'I and I'.

The syntax of the final lines took a while to unpack and find a way of making it sound effective in English. We were pleased when we lit on the verb 'stream' which has the idea of mingling and, of course, is perfect in this context.

Comments

  1. January 11th, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    eric nzau(Speak Swahili) says:

    This is a very good poem and it is the same as the original. So i am very Pleased

     

  2. May 23rd, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Timothy Kinoti M'ngaruthi says:

    This poem is a true reflection of what the author underwent as a political martyr in the Kenyan regime that was. I am currently reviewing the author's poems in his book 'Chembe cha Moyo' as part of my PhD research and I find his work quite rich. There would be no harm if all his poems were translated as appropriately as this one was.