Imagine africa volume 3, p.9
Imagine Africa, Volume 3, page 9
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(from “The Singing Hand,” unpublished)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
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?
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
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
four in the morning
restless sleep filled with dreams
of journeys that cannot
of journeys that cannot
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
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
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
that love was made
laughed and wept
and each laid down a dream
like a stone bannered in a landscape
which must spell out the journey
that cannot be told
in the dark light that cannot
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
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
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
‘n stilte voor die sang van voëls
met hierdie verse vaag geteken
in niet se skynsel:
vir die verdriet
roepkrete tot die dooies
lig wat lankal weg is
en nou eers brand
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
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.
by Bhakti Shringarpure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes