Sipping a Little Knowledge Could Create Hardship
This boneyard of injustice could wake, break the chains of abuse.
Siyaad! A patch mending a cracked whip that’s come apart;
The carpet, wet with dew, is caressed by first light.
I’ve committed to revolution; to cultivation and prosperity.
I’ve made a covenant: ‘this revolution will save our children,’
So what if I fear the KGB or Russia’s combat tanks?
Then I take my oath too casually. I swore on the Qur’an.
The party consists of patriots; they are constant and ours.
The coming future’s up to them – they act and direct.
No single country invented socialism: none can claim it’s theirs,
Don’t quarrel with other countries about how they construe it:
It’s simply a construct for raising the common economic standard.
Hey, you! You want to hand land to the Kremlin, Russia and Cuba?
Stand by your contemptible choice, pay no consideration to ours.
What I speak of comes on rapidly - leaps forward with compulsion.
Siyaad contributes talent; mankind craves to make life better.
Combine these factors, it should create constant improvement
But our country’s becoming a prison cell, copying Russian ideology
Where only Castro and Brezhnev’s views can be permitted;
Siyaad’s thoughts or considerations are considered irrelevant.
Revolutionaries are fleeing power’s corridors,
And not those who migrated - those still in the country.
We are a gelded camel, carefully plotting to surprise a he-camel.
We escape from homes and camps into the forest,
Bells circling our necks, their clanging means: ‘look out’.
We are looking through the corners of our eyes, cagey with fear.
Let me not chatter on, but cut back on words:
Who can condone these valueless administrators?
Anti-revolutionaries are patriots who can’t stand an administration.
What I’ve seen are separatists, crammed with malice; deadly,
But cunning: seats hold look-alikes of Katame and Ahmaras.
What cuts is the pretence of caring for the nation.
Progression in education is cancelled out; can’t be repaired:
We can’t reach for intermediate, let alone higher education.
A little knowledge of K and W, the student can take further courses -
Instead of learning from the bottom, it comes top down.
If no-one warns of the coming danger and turns up the heat,
Their scholarly skills won’t benefit the country.
They’re green-bottles boozing on sour camel’s milk.
And sipping a little knowledge could create hardship.
It’s crazy: you send someone to a course in Moscow
And the course is given - concise, speedy -
And he’s flown back to our country and assigned authority
And considers himself installed to the seat by Cuba and Russia.
He’s surprised by the expulsion of Cubans and the Soviets,
Despises those who decided at the party congress,
And people’s confidence in Siyaad and the nation’s leaders -
The party-conference started early; couldn’t wait for one o’clock:
They crowded in at daybreak to cheer the party’s agenda.
Those who ran away the day we expelled the Cubans,
Those who didn’t show at the party conference,
Destroying the party’s coherence; carving people into groups,
Must be indicted for treason, tied up for capital punishment.
When they cultivate animosity, it’s cancerous.
They deliberately obstruct and crush the revolution.
Maybe I’m just confused, my emotions too complex,
But these traitors contrive to catalyse violence.
Consequences will be noted: one day people will comprehend
How they’re enemies of their kin and the country
And were never the constant or loyal kind.
The Kremlin shipped armoured combat-vehicles to Ethiopia
And sent Cubans as proxies, carefree with the trigger,
Our armed forces were captured and killed,
Countless warriors collapsed in the forest.
When you look at these soldiers you can’t help but cry:
Colonels injured or killed by the Cubans.
We were never their co-workers or comrades,
But some don’t care about the plight of their country:
Their concern’s violently clutching state power.
Don’t let me carry on too long. Let me be concise.
This group condones injustice; because of this it climbs.
They charge you with an offence, claim you’ve committed crime,
Take you to court, then convert to prosecutor and judge -
Yes, they alone judge crimes, on evidence I can’t see.
First it was their cop who brought me to court,
Their prosecutor carried proceedings against me,
Their witness gave a concocted testimony
And lastly, their judge came to the incorrect verdict.
This group had the confidence of those above them -
If they’d been checked, inspected without being cautioned,
They wouldn’t have acted to convict an innocent man.
Unless accuser and accused had an unbiased court,
The legal case must be heard by a clean judge.
And perhaps it’s my character; how I’ve handled concerns,
But if this miscarriage continues, my revolutionary act concludes.
You can’t be surprised: it seems these times create change.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Maxamed Xasan 'Alto'
The final translated version of the poem is by Clare Pollard
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2015