by Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac 'Gaarriye'

The poem is under my hand.
The images crowd my head.
Poetry is the way
To get this story told.
Poetry has the strength
To tell the story well,
As long as the images hold,
As long as the poem writes.

The Oppressor comes into court.
He is the Prosecutor,
He is the Judge and Jury;
There is no ‘win or lose' -
The case is cut and dried.

The Defendant stands alone.
The Prosecutor calls
Himself as Witness - yes,
The Judge upholds the law
That he himself created:
It changes as he chooses.
The Jury only knows
One word - the word is ‘Guilty'.

This poem is a gun.
This poem's an assassin.
Images mob my mind...
This pen's a spear, a knife,
A branding-iron, an arrow
Tipped with righteous anger.
It writes with blood and bile.

I take this bitter ink,
Blood-red, to make my mark;
Corruption from the wound,
Sap from the poison-tree,
Aloe and gall and myrrh.

This poem's a loaded gun,
This verse a Kalashnikov.
I aim it at the snake
That slithers to our children
And strikes! See where the tell-tale
Blood-beads pearl on the skin.
The snake, the Prosecutor,
The Oppressor, the Judge, the Jury -
You must always aim for the head.

This poem is a gun
And words are ammunition.

This poem tells a story
That can't be cut or censored.

This poem's not up for sale,
It can't be bought as men
And cattle can be bought,
So don't make me an offer,
Put your money back
In your purse... But you can listen,
Everyone can listen,
Not just the great and good,
Not just Nelson Mandela.

Judge and Jury, listen!
Prosecutor, listen!
Policeman, come and listen!
Turnkey, come and listen!
You who perjure, listen!
You who torture, listen!

I want you to hear this poem;
I want you to hear me speak
As if I were Mandela.
I speak for him - Mandela.
I speak for an angry man,
A man whose voice was stopped,
A man whose mouth was gagged
Because he once said, ‘No!'
‘No!' to the Prosecutor,
‘No!' to the Judge and Jury,
‘No!' to injustice, ‘No!'
To indignity and oppression.

He says, ‘Don't think I'm beaten;
Don't think of me as weak
Or wretched. I'm no slave.
I'm not destitute
Although they stole from me.
I'm not without a home
Although my land's been taken.
Don't pity me; don't tell me
I'll have my chance at glory.

Didn't Jesus ask us
To turn the other cheek
And give the Fool who slaps us
Another chance to show us
Just how much he hates us?
And if that Fool should kill me:
Tell me, who's the victor?

He thinks of me, that man,
As someone who has no one:
No friends, no family,
No allies, no supporters.
He cannot see the circle -
Right round the globe - of people,
All races, colours, creeds,
Calling out for justice.
If I say I'm hungry
I mean hungry for justice.
If I say I'm hog-tied
I mean hog-tied by lies.
If I say I'm blind,
I'm blind to compromise.

If I say an angel
Stands at my right shoulder
I mean ‘Angel of Death',
I mean ‘Death in Disguise'.

Everything I've suffered,
Everything I've dreamed of,
Are mine and mine alone.

The Judge and Jury know me.
They know what I have suffered.
They think that what I'm thinking
Is what they think I'm thinking.
It's not. If I say ‘Angel'
I mean Angel of Death.
I mean the Angel's shadow
That darkens all my thinking.

The brush they use to sweep
My thoughts out of the door
Is worn down to the shaft.
Only the thoughts are left.

The snake-bite and the blood-beads,
The blood-beads and the poison,
Are my immunity.

Once my sleep was dreamless,
Once my mind was blank;
Now my dreams are rich,
My every thought is clear.

Now I see a way -
A way others have taken;
It's called the Road to Freedom.

I want you to hear him speak:
Hear Mandela's wisdom.
Listen, all who hear me,
All who think as I do.
Abu Hadra - hear me!
Poet and friend, now listen!
I know you'll understand.

This poem's a ransom-note,
Blood-money to the many
Who cry aloud for justice.
It's payback to Mandela
And everything he stands for
And everyone he speaks for.

This poem has a blade
Hidden at its heart.
That steel will last forever!

So listen, Abu Hadra!
If you will listen, others
Will listen too, will hear
The words as if Mandela
Was calling them to arms.
They'll grasp the blade that's hidden
Deep inside this poem;
They'll show the Jude and Jury
The cutting-edge of freedom;
They'll show the Prosecutor
The blade that lasts forever;
They'll never bow their heads
Or walk in chains and fetters.

This poem is a mirror
I've made for us, Hadraawi,
A mirror we can hold up
To show the ignoramus
The depth of self-deception
That lies in his reflection;
To show the Judge and Jury
How the wide world sees them;
To show the man who takes
Pleasure in pain the guern
Of glee that warps his smile.

Hadraawi, read this poem
To anyone who'll listen.
Help them to find the voice
I've given to Mandela.
And tell them this: our purpose
Is peace; our password ‘Freedom';
Our aim, equality;
Our way the way of light.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Martin Orwin and Maxamed Xasan 'Alto'

The final translated version of the poem is by David Harsent


'Mandela' has now been translated into Bengali by Gazi Saiful Islam.


  1. December 21st, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    gazi saiful islam says:

    Mandela by Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac 'Gaarriye' is one of my favorite poems for a long time. I now collect it again for translation in Bengali to show my love for Mandela and also the poet Gaarriye. Thanks translation center.

  2. November 10th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Abwaan Cabdirisaaq Oday says:

    Ilaahay Qabriga Haw nuuro Abwaan Gaariye waa nin Taariikhdu Xusi Doont....

  3. September 10th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Z says:

    I love this site, but I wish I could find the somali original versions as well!

    The PTC says: The Somali version of 'Mandela' is listed under 'original poem' as are all our poems. Here's a link to all the poems in Somali. Enjoy!

  4. May 3rd, 2012 at 11:03 am

    zamzam A Ali says:

    mashaallah! very deep, puntch, amazing tourching poem. well done all the translators.....

  5. July 25th, 2011 at 1:49 am

    suzy says:

    i find somalian poems so interesting but one thing i dont understand is why are they all so long?

  6. July 22nd, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Ahmed caaqil says:

    Mr gaariye thanks , gaariye is a one of the Somalian poetries , he create international poetry about obstacle situation of the world 

    this poetry he talk the the againt peaple of the Nelson Mandela, when he was a prisoner.

  7. November 5th, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Kartavya Ladwa says:

    awesome piece of art _ very stunning and deeply scathing

  8. October 8th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    nesrine says:

    verry beautiful poeme i like it so much

  9. September 23rd, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Duurgube says:

    this is a wonderful brief and to the point poem. I also believe that Mr. Gaarriye is the first Somali intellectual who scholarly scanned the Somali Poetry in seventies.

  10. August 29th, 2010 at 9:12 am

    aimers says:

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

  11. September 1st, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Ahmed Nour says:

    Thanks gaariye for this strong message, he also indirectly showed us the sad situaiton of similar people inside Somalia which are discriminated. From now on I will include my voice to other to strugle and stop bad treatment to our Somali brother which are facing racism inside our community. Let us act together to free then, the Midgan, Yibir, Jareer and others in every were.

    Thank you Ahemd



  12. August 14th, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Abdinasir Haginur says:

    Gaarriye is simply cut above the rest...He is a master communicator...teacher and above all a man of higher inteligence who posseses superior knowledge of the somali langague..He is the  Nelson Mandela of Somali poetry...You just made my father Mohamud Hajinur more proud.. 

  13. March 16th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Adam says:

    thank you so much, macalim gaariye.....he was my teacher of poesy, the first time i tried to express my vision in poem, he was there listenig us carefully ...and he told us the best way that we can create sweet and touching poems..i was 16 years gabiley..timacade under the shade of the old accacia trees and all the people attended were sitting on the grass like a natural green mat.

  14. March 10th, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    ahmed m sheikh adam says:

    i was amazed the way that the peom is going word after word, gariye is a somali legend which we will never forget him the entire of the history, i wish one day i will meet him. thanks for the post

  15. March 9th, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Adam says:

    Very nice and exciting poem that is also about a real time, a real person and real's great. Thanks Gaarriye.

  16. November 18th, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Jhon smith says:

    I have never seen before my eyes ,a man equal to this man in poetry. He by far the the best. Never did i know somalis were such good poets

  17. November 17th, 2008 at 6:04 am

    Mustafe M Jama says:

    Very well said by Gariye, a words from strong heart and strong mind, Gariye was connecting the situation in Somalia and South Africa. He acknlowedges all the things that Nelson Mandela went through.

  18. July 17th, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Laila Ali says:

    speechless: a strong, & loaded poem that packs a punch, goosebumps came to my skin as i was reading it. i am of a somali origin, but was raised in the UK and hardly understand complex somali poem, so this translation is a loved gift. Thank u!