Clarity

by Maxamed Ibraahin Warsame 'Hadraawi'

I’ve still not admitted defeat,
nor have I withdrawn:
that high inspiration,
that talent I was endowed with,
has not been discarded.
Its milk-camel’s capacity to fill
the dairy pail is undiminished –
apart from my deliberate delay,
there is no difference in me.
So I have a few points to make
to deal with the spreaders of doubt.

When men dedicate to the struggle
and determine to fulfil their duty;
when they ready themselves for the charge,
amass the finest thoroughbreds;
when the reins are on the racers,
I never step aside.

Gaarriye, in this arena
where the chess game unfolds –
well worth the watching, promising play –
the innocent delight in alliterative war,
our Deelley with its two sides,
where tactic is met by counter-tactic –
and here’s where I put my piece.

These first points are just the outline
to the real issue, the whole shape of which
this poem will address.

When our debate gets heated
loopholes come to light:
that damage done by exploiting
the bitterness of tribes, the anguish of clans,
which opens gaping wounds,
divisions between the people.
When the hyenas descend
upon shallow graves
and the shunned bodies of the dead,
that rotten meat nothing else would touch,
and pull out the pulp from their bellies,
the flux and the phlegm,
and scatter it all around,
the people are dumbstruck,
the fresh air is defiled,
miasma fills every nostril.
Then I am that prediction
of clouds still to come
bringing a downpour
that will cover the whole country.

Now a strange disease of vision
has been seen, and similar sicknesses
have ravaged and ranged:
not fatal like a cholera,
their futile attempts
are more like the common cold.
Nonetheless, those with virtue,
who detest discrimination,
those who defend this country –
who value knowledge,
the pen and the ink, those who delivered
this Deelley into the light –
will track them down
and silence their tapping drum.
The clarion bell we carry will strike,
destroying them like lightning,
those huggers of tribalism,
grubbers in money, who are everywhere
lusting to turn back
all hopeful development
and to despoil our nation –
I can’t let that happen.

Anyone who tries to rob you of your rights,
whether by brazen thievery
or clandestine kleptocracy,
by hideous trickery or with
light fingers in the light of day,
the pettiest of selfish pilfering,
they can’t grasp how well-founded Freedom is –
both the Moon and its full clarity
which will never dim.
I carry its fire, and am
its emissary. Anyone
who seeks to damage me,
to find my feeblest point,
can do his damnedest:
no matter how depleted I seem,
History will display
in the nation’s records
the inevitable outcome
of the role that I play.

Their gold and their silver
is a counterfeit coin,
its two faces are the same.

Their farms and their fields
crowd the banks of the Shabeele,
shelter by that richest of rivers,
fed by its finest cream;
rain directed by the Dirir star
washes them clean of dirty sand.
Their buildings are lavishly daubed
any colour they fancy,
furnished with the fittest mahogany;
five Datsuns are parked out front.
Nothing is earned from distant labour,
the sweat of work done while abroad;
nothing from diligence and hard work.
Nothing is gained by toil,
by the effort of striving together.
This bewildering wealth
lacks the blessings of parents,
nor has it dropped from Heaven –

Anyone who indulges in such display,
looking down on the destitute
and blatantly bragging about it,
doesn’t he fear being called to account
and having his crime’s enormity uncovered?

Our nation is renowned
for its honesty, for humility;
woven from a silken thread
our people would harm no-one;
fearing Allah, their feelings
are slow to stir – still,
they are not so easily duped:
those immersed in misrule,
pretending to stand tall while swimming
in its depths, weaving their unseen nets –
our people don’t rush to blame
nor to lash out at them, but
they keep an excellent account
of such misdeeds and store it well.

Let these few lines be as striking
as the stripes on an oryx,
as visible and as lovely –
I simply place them in plain view.
But there’s one further point
which will finish my argument.

Those others’ poems are driven by the wind,
like a tornado they turn
wherever and in whatever direction:
swelling the banner of tribalism,
lifting its deadly spear,
taking the lid off restraint –
it’s released in every marketplace.
Is there no regulation that could stop it,
no law that might detain it,
no authority to enforce these rules?
I wonder who said to let it spread,
this baleful malaria?
Why are those who pipe its praises
not brought to trial?

Let me tell the whole truth,
put into words
the essence of our charge:
while hunger grips like a strong youth,
is impregnable as a sturdy wall,
and those who grab and gather wealth,
who love to lick their lips at it –
while this type is springing up all over,
doers of ill who demand the best,
hoarding all there is;
while the poor suffer,
are pushed over, helpless,
and everyone is divided into high or low,
don’t hope that tribalism
will fade and wither:
the facts oppose you.

Anyone who wants this life
to be serene,
to have savour and feel sound,
there is a path to follow:
people, you prosper
as one unit, as you share in
your shouldering of the burden –
that’s the only balm.
If it weakens in one wing
then its whole end is woe.
Is there any advice better than this,
any further examples you need
beyond this ample explanation,
or do you have some countering case?

My horse is Clarity, is Daalacan –
I won’t hobble it
but here I set it at ease
for a few days.
Where is that able, well-bred ram
who leads the lively lambs
to our betrothed, our princess,
the Deelley, whose call brings them all
to the well that is community,
both the people and the animals?
Who knows how best to order
the drawing of the water but you, Gaarriye,
master with the deftness to distinguish
tinder’s dry leaves and dead sticks
from the trunk and branches best for the fire.
You are tempered steel:
your speeches satisfy the curious
and your arguments convince.
Your horse is named Doolaal, the strong and fast:
let its neigh ring out again,
let loose its rein, let
our theme spread far abroad.
Dear friend, Maxamed Xaashi,
I am as you are and do as you do,
if I ever let you down,
let the blame be on me. Let’s be
united in our common goal:
clear of motive,
clear of voice.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Said Jama Hussein

The final translated version of the poem is by W N Herbert

Notes

This is one of the most famous, and most important poems, in contemporary Somali poetry. Following his release from five year's imprisonment by the dictator, Siad Barre, Hadraawi and his good friend, the late Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac 'Gaarriye', began this 'chain' of poems, 'Deelley', to which many prominent Somali poets contributed. Hadraawi's 'Clarity' is dedicated to Gaarriye, whom he speaks of with enormous admiration and affection in the poem.

All the poems in the 'Deelley' chain are written in the demanding and complex gabay form and, in this case, they all alliterate with the letter 'D'. The 'Deelley' poems were memorised and recited in secret and they had a significant impact on Barre's reputation leading to his downfall.

'The Sea Migrations' by the young Somali poet, Caasha Lul Mohamud Yusuf, is a recent addition to the chain.

Comments

  1. August 28th, 2013 at 3:19 am

    gazi saiful islam says:

    Nice Poem, I will ofcourse translate them in Bengali.

  2. December 23rd, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Mrinal Devburman says:

    Lucid translation. Clear of motif, clear of voice.

  3. December 8th, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Claudia Daventry says:

    Magnificent poem, beautifully fluid translation. For me this also has echoes of Neruda's I'm going to tell you a thing or two'.  These restless horses, like Plath's 'Ariel', the power of verse. Let's hope he doesn't keep Clarity tethered for long.

  4. December 5th, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Alison Summers says:

    How interesting the number of times oppressed poets have to memorise their lines for fear of further oppression. Reminds me of Anna Ahkmatova. Hard enough to write poetry, but to  have to see it in the mind's eye only, that feels like a miracle.