Evening Tea


Our first query was 'porch', which Katriina had used in her literal version. This sounded quite American to us and so we went with 'verandah' which is also the word used in Arabic.

Next, we had to think about 'we should know' (in the literal): for this, and at other points in the poem, we settled on 'ought' which, in English, has the sense of a recommendation, or a moral obligation that's stronger and more specific than 'should'.

'There was a time when' became, first, 'Once, you would' and then 'Once you used to': the latter better expressing the sense of a repeated, habitual action in the past that's closer to the Swahili original.

It was a real pleasure translating this luminous poem, the first poem we've ever translated from Swahili, and we're very grateful to Katriina for introducing us to the poetry of Euphrase Kezilahabi. This poem was published in 1988, so it's part of his later, more reflective style. We liked the way that he manages to convey such depth of emotions by conjuring up a glimpse of the everyday.