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Imagine africa volume 3, p.9

Imagine Africa, Volume 3, page 9

 

Imagine Africa, Volume 3
 


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  how else will you take wind’s worth in the face?

  (from “The Singing Hand,” unpublished)

  die dans van die klippe

  my vriend sê: dis so ‘n groot wêreld

  niemand kan dit vol maak met begrip nie

  maar aan die begin was dit leeg

  behalwe vir die klippe

  wat klonte gedagtes van die buitenste roepruim is.

  my vriend sê dit is wat gebeur

  met die versteende skaduwees van sterre

  en dit is wat gebeur wanneer jy af in die purper put

  die een verskynsel in die skyn van die ander wil lees

  want hoe neem jy teenwoordigheid in die gedig?

  my vriend vra: die dood en die digkuns –

  is dit nie één nie? en die voël en die wind –

  kan die een sonder die ander se vlug bestaan?

  en wanneer die lig wat ontklee word

  tussen die verflentering van nagsterre

  en die onsigbaarheid van dag

  die kleur van wind is?

  maar ook dit slegs ‘n beskrywing van swewende skrywe?

  toe sê my vriend: om verbeelding

  op te tel soos klippe en uit te deel aan die broodnodiges

  is ‘n beweging

  en om te beweeg is die uitreik na ritme

  dit is die dans

  dans

  dans

  dansende pas-de-deux van verdraagsaamheid

  dis die gefluisterde woordhuis van vrygewigheid

  wanneer jy slegs die ek het om weg te gee

  en vergewe. kyk, die vryheid

  van weeg-en-weggee beweeg heen en weer

  tussen die spanning en ontspanning van verbintenis

  en die ritmiese saamkrimp van die klopvoëlhart:

  kyk nog ‘n keer – die naakte malman wat drie jaar lank

  deur die strate van Luanda geloop het

  met sy derms gedra in die bakkie van sy hande

  was ‘n dansende opskrywer van die lewe

  dit is die patroon: leegheid is vorm

  aan die begin, en om dit te laat bewe

  moet jy dit vol maak met die voëlskaduwees van woorde

  want aan die een kant en dan weer aan die ander.

  want hoe neem jy anders die wind se woorde in die gesig?

  the to-end

  then Wordpig brought the woman and the child

  to the dark city stinking of death

  where blood on the sidewalks is a silver skin.

  don’t look the word-glutton said

  for there is nothing to see

  except weeping people tearing their garments

  for death is nothing. death says nothing.

  and where shall we turn to

  where there’s no evil?

  in many regions searching for truth is now

  to blindly jab a stick in the soil

  and know with the reek of putrefaction:

  death is here. here too

  a trail of raw remembrances on the tarmac.

  and yet it was life.

  it is ours we lug it along

  the world is in our dream

  and in our stare

  to not look away.

  don’t look. death

  designs nothing. death signals

  nothing. look the dead only cling

  to the living’s thoughts

  in poems and dreams tearing upper garments.

  then Wordhog told the woman and the child

  the moon which I wound up so often

  is a metaphor for death’s silver hide

  when dead-winged sailors wash up

  in the night of forgetting and ascension’s

  rise and decay to sheeted

  darkness. it’s the word I looked for

  Wordpig says to the woman and the child:

  sheet to cover the dead

  with the faces of the living.

  if only for a moment lasting forever

  in the city where dark ink

  is poured to spell out and pair

  light and blood silvering the street:

  tu caca es mi caca.

  your house is my home

  and your death which is mine tells nothing

  of journeys that cannot be measured

  to disappearance which cannot be known.

  you must feast on the words.

  you must not know how endless

  dying is. for death is nothing.

  let me forget and go up in the darkness

  of coming to go

  Wordpig says to the woman and the child.

  it is but a moment

  lasting forever.

  don’t look

  die na-einde

  toe bring Woordvark die vrou en die kind

  na die donker stad wat stink na dood.

  waar bloed op die sypaadjies ‘n silwer huid is.

  moenie kyk nie sê die woordvraat toe.

  daar is niks om te sien

  behalwe wenende mense wat hulle bo-klede skeur

  want die dood is niks. die dood sê niks.

  en waarheen sal ons ons tog wend

  waar daar nié onheil is nie?

  in baie lande is die sekerheidsoeke nou

  om blind ‘n stok in die aarde te stamp

  en met die walm van ontbindingstank

  te weet. hier is dood. ook hiér

  ‘n sleepsel rou aandenkings op die asfalt.

  en tog was dit die lewe.

  dis ons s’n ons dra dit saam

  die wêreld is in ons

  droom en in ons kyk

  om nie weg te kan kyk nie.

  moenie kyk nie. die dood

  teken niks. die dood beduie

  niks. kyk die dooies kleef maar net

  aan die lewendes se verlore gedagtes

  in gedigte en drome wat die bo-klede skeur.

  toe sê Woordvark vir die vrou en die kind

  die maan wat ek so baie verstel het

  is ‘n metafoor vir sterwe se silwer huid

  wanneer dooievlerk matrose uitspoel

  in die nag van vergeet en opgaan

  se kom en vergaan tot duisternis

  gelaken. dis die woord wat ek gesoek het

  sê Woordvark vir die vrou en die kind:

  laken om die dooies toe te maak

  met die lewendes se gesigte.

  al is dit net vir ‘n oomblik wat ewig duur

  in die stad waar donker ink

  geskink word om op straat

  in lig en bloed silwerig te paar en spel:

  tu caca es mi caca.

  julle huis is my tuiste

  en julle dood wat my dood is vertel niks

  van reise wat nie gemeet kan word nie

  na verdwyning wat nie geweet kan word nie.

  julle moet verder vreet aan die woorde.

  julle moenie weet hoe eindeloos

  is sterwe nie. want die dood is niks.

  laat my vergeet en opgaan in kom

  en vergaan se duisternis

  sê Woordvark vir die vrou en die kind.

  dis tog net ‘n oomblik

  wat vir ewig duur.

  moenie kyk nie

  the to-death

  four in the morning

  restless sleep filled with dreams

  of journeys that cannot

  be measured

  of journeys that cannot

  be known

  a house creaks

  like the joints of eternity

  rooms so heavy

  with the heady smell

  of sweet rotting guavas

  bananas avocadoes pineapple

  the fruits of a life

  know of astral bodies

  still flaming in the night

  before the veil of light

  erases them

  know the mountain is a sombre lump

  filled with pent-up noises of gnashing life

  in the earth

  know the mountain will yet spit stars

&n
bsp; in patterns of journeys

  that cannot be measured

  know the sea will always be there

  in the night

  a black flag flapping over dreams

  know too that no knowing

  can ever say the sea

  and know that one is human

  among wandering humans

  each with the fire of dying

  and know one’s people came

  to go

  that love was made

  laughed and wept

  and each laid down a dream

  like a stone bannered in a landscape

  of nights

  which must spell out the journey

  that cannot be told

  in the dark light that cannot

  be measured

  until here: you and yours and we

  and I too

  the daybreak dusk

  a silence before the song of birds

  with these verses faintly sketched

  in the void’s glow

  love jingles ritournelles

  for the sorrow

  rallying calls for resistance

  of the dead

  light that’s long since gone

  to flare only now

  scars muttered tales

  of journeys that cannot be measured

  to disappearance that cannot be known

  Sea Point, October 2015

  die na-dood

  vieruur in die môre

  onrustige slaap vol drome

  van reise na wat nie

  gemeet kan word nie

  van reise wat nie geweet

  kan word nie

  ‘n huis se kraak

  soos die litte van ewigheid

  vertrekke so swaar

  met die bedwelmende reuk

  van soet verrottende koejawels

  piesangs avokadopere pynappel

  die vrugte van ‘n lewe

  weet van ruimteliggame

  wat nog vlam in die nag

  voor die sluier van lig

  hulle uit sal vee

  weet die berg is ‘n donker homp

  vol ingehoue geluide van knarsende lewe

  in die grond

  weet die berg sal nog steeds sterre spoeg

  in patrone van reise wat nie gemeet

  kan word nie

  weet die see sal altyd daar wees

  in die nag

  ‘n donker wappervlag oor drome

  weet ook dat geen verstand die see

  ooit kan beskryf nie

  en weet dat jy mens is

  tussen dolende mense

  elk met die vuur van sterwe

  en weet jou mense het gekom

  om te gaan

  dat daar liefde gemaak is

  gelag en geween

  en elkeen ‘n droom neergelê het

  soos ‘n steen gevaandel in ‘n landskap

  van nagte

  die reis wat nie geweet kan word nie

  uit moet spel

  in die duister lig wat nie

  gemeet kan word nie

  tot hier: jy en joune en ons

  en ook ek

  die dagskemering

  ‘n stilte voor die sang van voëls

  met hierdie verse vaag geteken

  in niet se skynsel:

  liefdesrympies opsêgoed

  vir die verdriet

  roepkrete tot die dooies

  se verset

  lig wat lankal weg is

  en nou eers brand

  littekens mompelstories

  van reise wat nie gemeet kan word nie

  na verdwyning wat nie geweet kan word nie

  Seepunt, 7 Oktober 2015

  HASSAN GHEDI SANTUR

  Tell Me a Story

  HASSAN GHEDI SANTUR was born in Somalia and spent his formative years in Mogadishu. At age 14, he left Somalia with his family for what they thought would be a temporary trip. Not long after, the violent revolution that started in northern Somalia reached the capital and a 20-year civil war began. He settled in Toronto, Canada with his family. To learn English, he started reading voraciously and listening to public radio. He eventually earned a BA in English literature and an MFA in screenwriting at York University, embarking on a career in journalism as a freelancer, mostly for CBC Radio – to which incidentally he used to listen to in order to improve his English. In 2010, he published his debut novel Something Remains which was longlisted for the The ReLit Awards. After a year working in and traveling around East Africa, he relocated to New York City to pursue a Master’s degree in Politics & Global Affairs at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He recently completed his second novel The Youth of God and is currently working on a long-form reportage about the refugee crisis unfolding in Italy and France.

  IT ALL STARTED with a simple request. “Tell me a story,” she said.

  It happened a few weeks ago. Khadija and Bashir had dinner at the long, mahogany table that was far too big for their small apartment and that looked even smaller thanks to their oversized sofas which had a tendency to swallow those unfortunate enough to sit on them.

  “Tell me a story,” Khadija said with a sigh that betrayed a quiet desperation.

  She’s already bored with me, Bashir thought to himself. But he obliged her anyway. Ever since she had told him she was pregnant, Bashir had become doting. Obsequious even. So he told her a story about how at age ten he went missing for two days. Walking home from school one day, he saw a lorry parked on the quiet dirt road that led to his home. He had always wanted to ride one, so he tightened his backpack around his shoulders and struggled to climb up onto it. As soon as he got into the back of the lorry, full of sacks of flour, the engine came to life. Elated by his first experience on a lorry as tall as a house, little Bashir lay down on one of the sacks of flour, facing up at the blue sky above, and watched the tree branches whizz by.

  Bashir fell asleep. When he woke up, it was dark and the lorry was locked in a large garage among dozens of other lorries. At sunset the following day, exhausted, covered in flour, Bashir was brought home by the two drivers of the lorry. He ran into his mother’s arms. She held him sobbing for what seemed like hours. At last, she let go, held his face in her hands and slapped him hard, then kissed him repeatedly on the forehead.

  When Bashir finished telling his wife the story, he asked her to tell him a story about her childhood. And so she did. Sharing anecdotes and snapshots from their past became a nightly ritual. She told him about the day her best friend Fatima dared her to steal a bag of candy from a neighborhood store. Khadija got caught by the storeowner and taken to the police station.

  Night after night, these storytelling sessions took place after dinner as they sipped tea or shared a bowl of vanilla ice cream like a new couple on a date.

  Bashir poured some sesame oil into his palms, rubbed them together and began to massage his wife’s feet. Khadija’s feet had developed a tendency to swell as her pregnancy progressed. She lay on the couch, her back propped up with two pillows, and her feet in Bashir’s lap. The television was on and Al-Jazeera English was showing a report about the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria.

  “Ruffa?” Khadija said, unable to wrap her tongue around the name.

  “No,” Bashir said laughing. “Rufus.” Lately he has gotten into the habit of suggesting strange names whenever she brought up the subject of what they would name the baby. Yesterday he told her that if the baby was a girl he wanted to name her Chaka, after his favorite soul singer Chaka Khan. She laughed hysterically and said over her dead body. Tonight he told her that if the baby was a boy, they should name him Rufus.

  “Ruf-fus!” Khadija attempted to repeat. “People give their children such names?”

  “Yes!” Bashir said emphatically. “There is a famous Canadian singer named Rufus.”

  “No. Really. No.” Khadija said shaking her head. “It sounds like a dog’s name.”

  Bashir laughed and nodded. They turned to the
television in unison when they heard the newscaster suddenly mention Somalia.

  Khadija reached for the remote and turned up the volume. She listened intently though she could not understand everything the newscaster was saying. Her eyes widened when she heard the name Kismaayo and she turned to Bashir with a worried look. It was his cue to start translating.

  “Twenty-one people were killed yesterday, many of them civilians,” Bashir said, translating simultaneously as he listened to the report. “The African Union troops supported by the Somali National Army have entered the coastal city that has been controlled by the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Thousands of civilians have fled to neighboring towns.” Bashir continued his slow, methodical translation. He turned away from the TV to find his wife holding her hand to her mouth. “Do we have a calling card,” she said. “We must call my father.”

  “It’s three in the morning there, sweetie,” Bashir said, reaching out to hold her hand. “We’ll call them first thing in the morning.”

  Khadija didn’t protest but she also didn’t agree. She just sat there, her gaze fixed on the television screen even though the news had moved on to the war in Libya.

  It had taken Khadija, her father and her sisters weeks to figure out the time difference between Toronto and Kismaayo. She used to call them at all hours of the day, sometimes waking her father at two in the morning and they too called her at all hours of the day, often rousing Bashir from the depths of sleep at four in the morning. And although Khadija’s homesickness had abated somewhat, she still called her family almost every day. Bashir often pictured his wife’s telephone conversation as a long, transatlantic umbilical cord that nourished her and any attempt on his part to sever it as likely to result in his wife’s unraveling. So he learned to accept the late night calls as the price of admission into his wife’s heart.

  For many months after their wedding and after he had relocated Khadija to Toronto, Bashir felt shut out of his wife’s interior world. It was as though she was punishing him for taking her so far away from the only place and people she had ever known and loved. His uncle Ahmed had told him some basic facts about her family. Simple background information like the fact that in 1993 when Khadija was only nine years old, a year-long drought had completely destroyed her family’s banana farm, a misfortune from which her family never recovered and after which the country fell into the most severe famine in its recent history.

 
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