The Word Cutter

by Alamin Mazrui

My laughter laughs with me
      laughing joyfully
I don't have any thoughts in my head today
      they haven't woken up yet

I think it's morning
      dawn is breaking
And that's precisely the reason
      for the heart to be calm
and why this sweet beat
      resonates

I laugh to myself... for I know
I'm not used to this smile
that strolls through a poem and a dance
laughing with me... exciting me like a wife with her husband
                                                  like lovers forever

I'm not used to this joyfulness and passion
      that leads me day and night
      to sing along with the chorus
      ... to follow the pleasures of the world

So I decided...
      to cut off the words of joy and belief
            of love or religion
words that would temper the slave's revenge
       words that would win the war with hearts within
       as well as the wars within borders

My only word is suffering
So I prefer the old way...
      thoughts not written

The literal translation of this poem was made by Katriina Ranne

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

A poem that could only have been written by a poet who has dedicated his life to political activity, 'The Word Cutter' gives a fascinating insight to the dilemma faced by those intent on political change who feel challenged or uneasy at the deleterious effects they worry that joy can have on the serious endeavour of political struggle. Whether the conflict articulated in 'The Word Cutter' is something the poet himself has struggled with, or whether he's commenting (perhaps with a degree of irony?) on what he's witnessed others experiencing, the poem (of course) cannot reveal....

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