Tribute forum for our friend and fellow poet, Zubairi Atamvaku Naseem.

Moderator: moonflower

Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA


Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Thu Oct 10, 2002 3:46 am

Zubairi was a member from Arua, Uganda. He disappeared from the site and research into his whereabouts resulted in the realization that he had been killed in a political uprising. We preserve his archive for him here in memoriam. He was reportedly killed on June 10, 2008, although other reports place his death sometime in 2007.


<center><a name="#top">Table Of Contents</a>
<a name="#one">Part One</a>
<a href="#a1">Tribute</a>
<a href="#a2">The Drums Of Tears</a>
<a href="#a3">The Vulture's Stool</a>
<a href="#a6">NO HEED TO EXHORTATION</a>
<a href="#a7">AN OWL ABOVE THE FIG TREE</a>
<a href="#a8">THE DEATH OF HUMANITY</a>
<a href="#a9">THE MOON IS ALONE</a>
<a href="#a10">IF ONLY I COULD KNOW</a>
<a href="#a12">DEATH WITHOUT DOOM</a>
<a href="#a14">AN UNHOLY BETROTHAL</a>
<a href="#a15">WEEP FOR THE PUMPKIN</a>
<a href="#a16">THE NIGHT DANCERS</a>

<a name="#two">Part Two</a>
<a href="#b1">THE BURNT-OUT CHIEFDOM</a>
<a href="#b2">THE SUN SHALL RISE AGAIN</a>
<a href="#b4">THE ECLIPSE OF THE UNKNOWN</a>
<a href="#b6">A GIFT OF THE DAWN</a>
<a href="#b7">THE MYTH</a>
<a href="#b9">LOVE AFTER BLASPHEMY</a>
<a href="#b10">THE SIREN</a>
<a href="#b12">A KING OUTSIDE WED-LOCK</a>
<a href="#b13">A SONG FOR THE LITTLE ONE</a>
<a href="#b14">WARN THE SQUIRREL!</a>
<a href="#b15">THE NILE</a>
<a href="#b17">WHO IS SINKING?</a>
<a href="#b18">THE ENEMY BROTHERS</a>

<a name="#three">Part Three</a>
<a href="#c2">SAFE FROM THE HARD JAWS.</a>
<a href="#c3">THE LAST TRAJECTORY</a>
<a href="#c4">UNKNOWN TREASURES</a>
<a href="#c5">GONE ALONE</a>
<a href="#c7">SOUNDS FROM THE DUNGEON</a>
<a href="#c8">IN HAPPINESS, I CRY</a>
<a href="#c10">THE DEMISE OF THE TRAITOR.</a>
<a href="#c13">IF I WAS</a>
<a href="#c14">THE SPEAR OF MY YOUTH</a>
<a href="#c15">PASSING THE BATON</a>
<a href="#c16">THE PRIMORDIAL PLEASURE.</a>
<a href="#c17">THE RIVER OF TIME *</a>
<a href="#c18">TIME'S CHEMISTRY *</a>
<a href="#c19">TIME'S DESERT ON MY HEAD *</a>
<a href="#c20">TIME UP! *</a>
<a href="#c21">HOMESTEAD LOST</a>
<a href="#c22">I FEEL HOME-SICK</a>
<a href="#c23">THE WISHFUL TIME</a>
<a href="#c24">The Boy's Fatal Singsong</a>
<a href="#c25">The Subterranean Curse*</a>

<a name="#four">Part Four</a>
<a href="#d1">COURAGE BETRAYED</a>
<a href="#d2">DREAM</a>
<a href="#d3">ON MY DEATH-BED</a>
<a href="#d4">THE TIME'S ORCHARD. *</a>
<a href="#d5">BEYOND CHAOS</a>
<a href="#d7">EPISTLE TO THE ROGUE KING</a>
<a href="#d8">THE DRY UDDER</a>
<a href="#d9">ARISE !</a>
<a href="#d10">GIVE ME YOUR TEARS</a>
<a href="#d11">ALWAYS I SHALL REMEMBER</a>
<a href="#d12">A CURSE ON THE VULTURE’S HEAD</a>
<a href="#d13">THE SPEAR OF YOUR FAITH</a>
<a href="#d14">MY CHOICE</a>
<a href="#d15">CERTAIN OF THE CERTAIN</a>
<a href="#d16">NEITHER MIGHT NOR POWER</a>
<a href="#d17">A MATTER OF LOYALTY OR OF LOVE</a>
<a href="#d18">TO THE FOUNTAIN</a>
<a href="#d19">THE RIVER OF SELF-DELUSION</a>
<a href="#d20">THE PEARL OF MY HEART</a>
<a href="#d21">THE SARCASM OF THE STRUMPET</a>
<a href="#d23">I Dream of Fusillade</a>

<a name="#five">Part Five</a>
<a href="#e1">THE SURE JOURNEY</a>
<a href="#e4">DEATH WITHOUT A SIGN</a>
<a href="#e5">THE CALABASH OF PAIN</a>
<a href="#e6">THE DRUMS OF INSOLENCE.</a>
<a href="#e7">THE DRUMS OF PAIN</a>
<a href="#e8">THE DRUMS OF PREMONITION</a>
<a href="#e9">THE CALABASH OF SORROW</a>
<a href="#e10">THE DRUMS OF PERDITION.</a>
<a href="#e11">THE DRUMS OF RESOLUTION</a>
<a href="#e12">THE DRUMS OF COURAGE</a>
<a href="#e13">THE CALABASH OF DEATH</a>
<a href="#e14">THE CALABASH OF TWINS</a>
<a href="#e15">THE CALABASH OF THEFT</a>
<a href="#e17">THE CALABASH OF TEARS</a>
<a href="#e18">THE CALABASH OF COURAGE</a>
<a href="#e19">THE DRUMS OF RE-BIRTH</a>
<a href="#e20">THE DRUMS OF RETURN</a>
<a href="#e21">THE DRUMS OF RECEPTION</a>
<a href="#e22">THE CALABASH OF FREEDOM</a>
<a href="#e24">I Dream of a Library</a>

<a name="#six">Part Six</a>
<a href="#f2">AN EPILOGUE TO 1945</a>
<a href="#f3">THE SILENT SILENCE</a>
<a href="#f4">FAIR FREEDOM</a>
<a href="#f5">MOTHERS’ EXHORTATION</a>
<a href="#f7">DEMISE IN AUDACITY</a>
<a href="#f9">LAMENT ON THE ANT-HILL</a>
<a href="#f10">ON THE ROCK OF MY ANCESTRY</a>
<a href="#f11">I DREAM OF A VULTURE</a>
<a href="#f12">I DREAM OF UR CHALDEA</a>
<a href="#f13">I DREAM OF GOLD</a>
<a href="#f14">I DREAM OF A DOVE</a>
<a href="#f15">I DREAM OF A WAY FAIRER</a>
<a href="#f16">THE EAGLE IN DILEMMA</a>
<a href="#f17">AFRICA, TELL HIM</a>
<a href="#f18">WHITHER YOUTHFUL BLOOD?</a>
<a href="#f19">I Dream of a Carnival</a>

<a name="#seven">Part Seven</a>
<a href="#g1">IF GOD WON'T DESTROY THE QUEEN*</a>
<a href="#g3">I DREAM OF A RAM</a>
<a href="#g4">I DREAM OF AN OVAL CAVE</a>
<a href="#g5">I DREAM OF A CASTLE</a>
<a href="#g5">THE WELCOME NOOSE</a></center>

Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA


Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Sat Oct 12, 2002 7:22 am

Part One

<a name="#a1">Tribute</a>

At the break of dawn,
In the loving memory
Of her, my icon,
With whom our relation
Remains in eternal generation,
I remain aplomb,
Full of hope
That in the ethereal joy,
Our hearts shall
For ever
In Unity, partake.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a2">The Drums of Tears</a>

As the cur of war descends upon the peaceful village,
Darkness reigns and squall overtakes the village;
Men, their rest after the laborious tilling of the fields interrupted,
blow their horns;
The thrill cries of the women betray sudden ructions,
As the cooing of the pigeons gives way to the howling
and barking of the dogs;
Twelve young men keep squirming on the dewy grass unattended.

Far across the river, beyond the distant massif,
Distant drums grow louder and louder, and their
sounds keep drawing nearer and nearer the village,
Thus mingling into the ears with the proverbial incubus of tu-whit, tu-whoo.
But soon, like it were nightmare, the drums cease sounding and
a sudden loud silence reigns,
Only to be disturbed by the groaning of boys
And the chilling screaming of girls cutting through the silence.

Gunshots in the air raise the tempo of the catastrophe higher than
the pitch of a soprano.
Once again darkness overwhelms and the howling and barking of the dogs stop.
Whiplashes cut through the bare human skins.
Then there is the bitter chorus of loud agonizing screams of men;
The bereaved mothers sob uncontrollably
Drenched in blood, some exhausted captives carry a ruddy great pile of booty.

Another burst of automatic machine gun fire is heard.
The chief’s kraal burns, producing tragically ruddy glow over the courtyard
A sudden staccato burst of high-pitched yelps fill the air
And instantaneously, sounds of rough kicks, and bitter whiplashes follow,
An angry procession of wounded men and women circumvent the courtyard.
Far away drums come back to life, their rhythmic expression
more lugubrious than rumbustious.

Finally dawn breaks and silence once again reigns.
The weeping of the bereaved mothers and sisters continues unabated.
The squall of the children awakens the spirits of the ancestors
who died in days of yore
The air around the village is saturated with sad music,
As a tall squiff commander, smoking this long pipe,
inspects the smouldering villages,
The pigeons take flight to some land unbeknown to
the inhabitants of the desolate village, land beyond their horizon.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a3">The Vulture's Stool</a>

The remorseless king of darkness,
Stooping low in the muck,
Sits uneasily on the desecrated stool.
Like a vulture’s,
His bold head confirms the owl’s siren,
Reflecting back the secondary rays,
The cursed rays from the warriors’ spears.
And before him is a pair of drooping hips.
The strumpet from across the Nile kneels
Confirming Octavia Ceasar’s indictment of Anthony.
She kisses the vulture’s claws.
What has become of the Pearl?
Over the Seven Hills,
The sun has set into eternity!
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>


From the original garden
Where naturally planted,
I sought to grow
Free of your adulterated culture,
Without being irrigated
With salty water,
It was your civilization
That uprooted me
And had me forcefully
Transplanted on a land
Without any dint of life,
Where the arrogant
Had from time immemorial
Arrogated the divine prerogatives
To seek creation
Outside procreation.
Once your sacrilege
Got sway over your heads,
Your civilization held
In contempt the bounties
Upon which survival
Of mankind so rests,
And scornfully assassinated
My gift to mankind.
In the wake of your civilization lies desolate,
In smouldering ruins,
The great palaces
Of the primordial nation.
Yet in your museums,
I see the arts of my ancestors
Illegally displayed
In your glass boards.
What civilization
Securely rests on theft
But that begets
Evil genius to produce
The balls of orange fire
That have rained
On mankind, and
Has kept in bondage
My generation just
As it had done to those
Who now lie in the wombs
Of a history so cruelly distorted!
Withholding the torch of redemption
From yourself,
Your civilization condemns
Mankind to perpetual fratricide.
What sufficient indictment
For the offence of aggrandizement!
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>


Far from whence the sun has set forever
The Cowboy, in an unholy womb, travels.
Alighting at the wretched court,
The court of a sleeping monarch,
He lives to usurp the kraal.
Nay, neither standing, nor explaining himself,
Beneath his breast egregious ambition boils,
Breeding pestilence without elixir, and
Provoking a dreaded chapter in history.
Yet murky, and incomprehensibly down in the dumps,
Awaits the moon to return to the East
And so he may cohabit with the apparition.
Thus a lad with his ancestry shrouded in mystery,
The guilty years start unfolding with all the bleakness
As the unordained priest delivers a sermon of fear,
Not a slight shrill cry from the alter touches the ears.
By his host, but a dullard of a superlative degree,
The ruse is construed for a saint’s promise.
The oracle thus predicts, the owls incessant singing
With the dawning birds eerily silent
Not even the russet of the young day captures the eyes.
Neither in the still sea nor in the mild fire,
Neither on the peaceful earth, nor in the gentle air
Do we find any scintilla of equipoise.
But the devious son of the sorcerer,
Intoxicated with his exploits, abound in blood and skeleton,
Sits on a human skull, celebrating with a ribald humour
And all the delirious laughter of a sado-masochist.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a6">NO HEED TO EXHORTATION</a>

The Professor tells me a language expresses an idea
Who will tell me which face symbolizes a clean heart
When hungry dogs are unleashed on the dead buffalo
The boys hunting abandon their spears at Bombo
Without a grave poor Ombirua is buried
I know not which tears to shed.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a7">AN OWL ABOVE THE FIG TREE</a>

My brother!
Son of our elder mother
Have we parted?
See, they mock us
Look up!
Sound the Bugle!
Is it mute?
I cannot hear a sound.
The boys are crossing the dale
But the frogs are silent
The night prolongs its term
And the day recedes farther.
With the owl perching above the fig tree
And the dark cloud gathering in the sky
What tune can the children learn?

My brother!
Son of our elder mother
Do you hear the cockcrow?
The crickets are silent,
The dogs no longer bark,
The birds have emigrated.
But here I am,
A lamb for them,
My feet are freezing.

My Brother!
Son of our elder mother
Hold my hand.
What do you hear?
Far away,
With an owl above the fig tree,
Our youngest mother hums the elegy.
The only anthem our children shall learn.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a8">THE DEATH OF HUMANITY</a>

Since that dreadful day when milk became perfume
And the long pipes, filled with crude tobacco
Were smoked in the once cleanest city square,
When the epileptic Queen and the pyromaniac King arrived
In a chariot pulled by Kintu’s grandchildren,
The human race entered a retrogressive permutation.

Dark clouds hover above Lake Victoria
As the inhabitants of Lubiri transform into doleful forms.
Thus the earth shakes from the ignominy of human race.
Nauseatingly, the earth expels the remains of the itinerant servants,
And on the Hills of Namirembe and Rubaga,
The vampires wither into an unknown vortex.

The once beautifully built palaces are in ruins,
Clouds roll heavily upon Kibuli, round a common Prince.
In the North, the old folks are riveted by spontaneous elegies.
But the inhabitants of the swamps,
Thinking to reclaim their infantile joy,
Surrender to a King without a genealogy.

Thick-flaming fire engulfs the Kololo Hill.
With the African personality wrapped in dark soot,
The unity of mankind disintegrates in the theatre of voracity.
And as nobility recedes further into an unknown horizon,
The rage of the prima donna consumes the fatherland
And on the opium connoisseur, unholy accolades are heaped.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a9">THE MOON IS ALONE</a>

I walk into a homestead
The voices of children are not heard
There is no laughing, no crying
Within my breast,
My heart is restless.

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed.

I walk into a homestead
The black dog lies in the hearth
There are no children to celebrate the moon-light
Within my breast,
My heart is restless

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed

I walk into a homestead
On the papyrus, the children lie motionless
The mother counts the ribs of each child
Within my breast,
My heart is restless.

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed

I walk into a homestead
Clutching the youngest on her milkless breast
The mother vainly covers the rest with her bare hands
Within my breast,
My heart is restless.

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed

I walk into a homestead
The children shiver helplessly
The mother has no wood to burn
Within my breast,
My heart is restless.

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed

I walk into the fields
They are bare
There had been no sim-sim to harvest
So what stalks can the mother burn?
Even the morning sunrays seem to be cold.

Every existent seems still
Above in the sky
The moon is alone
The stars seem to have departed

And I, where do I head?
Mother, tell me
Before orphaned, I am
Like the moon above,
Abandoned by the stars.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a10">IF ONLY I COULD KNOW</a>

Like a worn-out skin bag,
I return to meet you.
But what do I see?
A heap of red earth!
Beneath it your delicate body rests.
If only I could know
How it has changed you,
I should be grateful for the final re-union.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>


Those tied by others to their plantations,
Locked by others in their factory buildings,
Condemned never to save in banks,
Ordained ever to save crumbs in their shrinking bellies;

They have nothing to do in the lands but be
Meek to the glass windows, and
Obedient to the tall walls, and
Subservient to the electrified fences.

There is only one music, one tune, one beat,
And they can do only one thing,
Dance in step with the order of the pot-bellied.
Those who belch on behalf of the yawning.

Thus sounds, philistine though,
The illusion of those whose bellies
Are too big for the estimates of their eyes
And so must covet every nickel under the sun.

But soon, in the face of social rumblings, spontaneously
The glass windows shattered and fell off,
The tall walls collapsed without any traces, and
The electrified fences could no longer transmit any currents.

Physically all disappeared,
And momentarily, the symbols of grandeur evaporated
As symbolically, they ceased to reflect
The much revered grandiloquence of the affluent.

Then from the shanty suburbs
They march courageously,
Bare feet, with bare hands, in cold, in heat,
They arrive at the inevitable, the rendezvous of victory.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a12">DEATH WITHOUT DOOM</a>

When they cut off his hands,
They had it pronounced that
No more writing of petitions for them
Who, like dogs must hunt without eating at the dinner table.

When they cut off his legs,
They had it pronounced that
No more running for them
Who, like snails, can only pray in the face of a lion.

When they cut off his ears,
They had it pronounced that
No more listening to propaganda for them
Who, like drums, sound but never hear any sounds.

When they plucked off his eyes,
They had it pronounced that
No more seeing the evidence for them
Who, like the murdered, never hear evidence in their favour.

When they cut off his tongue,
They it pronounced that
No more speaking for them
Who, like hoes, dig without harvesting the produce.

When they cut off his head,
They had it pronounced that
No more thinking for them
Who, like pots, cook without eating what they have cooked.

For six days, self-deceit was their menu.
And on the seventh day, for their pudding,
They removed his heart, and had it pronounced that
No more life for them, the ungrateful,
Who like the good earth, should grow food but not feed on it.

After vainly washing his blood off their hands,
They buried his blood stained shirt in sand,
To themselves, they told a fatal lie,
That Kwame Nkrumah did not live, and Edmund Burke is still alive,
That all revolutions are illusions, the struggle is finished.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a14">AN UNHOLY BETROTHAL</a>

At the source of the Nile,
Cleopatra was resurrected.
But in an amorphous figure,
She was re-incarnated.
And illegitimately she got betrothed
To a virulent re-incarnated Hitler;
Thus offending the celestial authority.
Impelled by necessity
To shield the blessed Nile
Away from the evil pair,
The elders cast Cleopatra into the hot dungeon.
Hearing her howling,
Hitler, to avert his own despair,
Plunges his soul-less body into the Nile,
Contaminating the age-long innocence
Of the life-blood of the Ancient civilization.
Where is Gamal Abdul Nasser?
The illustrious giant,
Standing taller than the Sphinx.
Had he been alive,
Both Cleopatra and Hitler,
Amorous, sanguinary,
Would have been banished
For their sin of bigamy
To a thirsty, dry wilderness.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a15">WEEP FOR THE PUMPKIN</a>

Across the Nile,
To the North
Or to the South.
Across the Nile,
To the East
Or to the West.
The Nation in
Its entirety
Lies in mourning.

As the ox-ploughs
In the desolate
Homestead rust away.
The strange ploughs,
With their red and yellow
Eye balls, snort and
Bulldoze their way
Through the huts,
Smashing the ancestral drums
Into unrecognizable shape.

Deep into the
Cursed earth,
They plunge their shares
Sowing the seeds
Of mutual hatred.

Across the Nile,
To the North
Or to the South.
Across the Nile,
To the East
Or to the West.
The Nation in
Its entirety
Is transfixed in
Utter loss.

Only a pair of fingers
Is alive, holding
The smoking pipe,
Pointing it on
The head of
The hapless Nation,
Chastising the agitators
For freedom.

But one day,
The evil pair
Will tire.
And the knot around
The criss-crossed
Fingers shall break.
They shall once
Again plant the pumpkin
So that its yellow flowers
Shall blossom to yield
The lost freedom, and
The humans shall be
Human once again.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>

<a name="#a16">THE NIGHT DANCERS</a>

Down the valley in the muddy trough,
There is a troupe attending some séance,
Got stuck heel-deep, transfixed in cynicism.
The many cracks on their heels,
Hidden deep in the iron-heeled shoes.
Bitterly, their Queen smiles,
The crabby sorcerer triumphantly waves,
As her sister drinks from the vase of sadism.
Tall, the sister stands on a freshly covered grave,
Her put up smile, diligently rehearsed,
Thus alluring to the open abyss of self-damnation
The lackadaisical, hobnobbing with the grave robbers.

Originally posted by bags123:
This one eludes me Z. Can you explain please?
I always find myself ill at ease when asked to give something near to interpreting my own words of a poetic piece. I feel like limiting the reader’s freedom to fathom as far as he/she can. Nevertheless, I am obliged to give some explanatory background notes if only to prevent ours becoming a dialogue of the deaf. I appreciate that certain idioms, imageries and symbolism derived from our traditional "orature" (African oral literature) are rather remote from those in the West (just as true the reverse case is).

In the idiom of our people (as it is with most African societies), "the night dancers" are representative of evil people – those whose delight is in the suffering of others. Symbolically, "night" is reflective of an underworld. That of the mud and the valley reinforces this bleak imagery and the symbolism in our orature. However a valley can depict good in terms of soil fertility. But where its usage is juxtaposed with the symbolism of the "muddy trough" and the imagery of the "muddy", then the position of a valley in opposition to the high ground is representative of human degeneration.

What could a group of dancers be doing at night in the muddy valley? Only to attend some séance, plan, plot and implement their evil designs. Their feeling is one of cynicism. Yet the cracks on their heels depict their own appalling state – inability to march on the evil path unscathed.

The "iron-heeled shoes" in our local idiom depict oppression. It is this oppression of other members of the society that pleases the Queen who smiles but bitterly. A bitter smile (literally put – a smile with red teeth) is a physiognomy that belies the true state of the mind. Hence the triumphant waving to the "sister" (colleague) in spite of the suffering of those upon whom the iron-heeled shoes rest.

Often bad and oppressive rulers inflict pain on others with the assistance of other equally treacherous people. (For example Hitler was not alone). In fact I am at this stage reminded of the poem by B. Brecht ‘Questions from a worker who reads’ in Poems 1929 – 1938, edited by Willett and Manheim (London, Methuen, 1976), page 252. In some cases the helpers of the dictators are more vicious than their benefactors. They do the dirty work and the cover-up – all sometimes on the orders of the dictator but at times in his name for their own greed. They are the ones who cast the net to catch the fish.

It is also the case that always the small dictators or those still in the making are attracted to work with the ruling dictator. That is the case of the "tall sister". Then there are those with evil designs as well as the lazy who wish to get rich quickly but without sweat – all these always rally behind the ruling dictator. Thus the last three lines of the poem.

Finally, mine is a real and living condition in which we participate either as perpetrators or victims. I hope I have at least elucidated something little. THANKS.
<a href="#top">Back To Top :arrow:</a>


Oh my countrymen, my countrywomen
The land is in tumult, and the mountains are breaking.
The river valley, once full of water, is now dry.
The forests are all burnt, black;
It is all ashes, everywhere the soil is gray.
What value is left of our land?
Where there are no young men,
No young women to run errands,
Only the old are left gnawing hunger;
Their backs are all broken.
Is it by age? Or is it by the events of our times?
No, it is by the baton, and the kicks of the donkey’s hobnail boots.
Weeping with untold sorrows, and orphaned in their twilight,
Theirs is the chorus of anxiety, and the coda of elegy.
At whom should the accusing finger point?
Who is to occupy the dock?
The butterflies that came across the seas?
Or the chameleon that stealthily invaded the homestead,
Putting once a priest’s frock;
On yet other occasions it dressed in the elegant attire of the civil servant;
Though occasionally, it appeared with the judge’s wig on its head;
And the previous night had itself well camouflaged in battle fatigue;
That was after dinning with its folk, who came carrying the hoe,
the sickle and the matchet;
And was accompanied by others carrying surveyor’s levelers and
barbed wires for land demarcation?
Who is to stand at the dock?
Not the ones who climbed up, and climbed down the now broken mountains.
Not the ones who crossed the once mighty river, where now spans the dry valley,
And marveled at the virgin thick, green forest at the foot of the mountains,
Now dead, rotten and awaiting to be forgotten after a burial without eulogy.
But at him, who grew feeding from our gourd
Only to turn his spear, or the spear we gave him,
Brazenly pointing homewards, towards the sacred kraal,
Arrogantly, without shame who chose
But impetuously to wear the ill fitting jacket of Prospero’s Generalissimo.

The title of this writing is derived partly from the character in Shakespeare’s "Tempest" . In this drama we meet Prospero and Caliban. The former takes over the island previously presided over by Caliban and his mother Sycorax. Then between the two – Prospero and Caliban – there is a very interesting exchange over language. This exchange has remained remarkably vivid in the minds of the colonized in Africa because it was a prophecy of what was to come in colonial Africa. Prospero reminds the hostile Caliban that it was he who gave Caliban a language:

"When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes
With words that made them known"

Whereas prospero claims that Caliban’s language was a mere gabble – unintelligible – and therefore not worthy a language, Caliban answers not by reminding his tormentor of his (Caliban’s) own language. Rather ironically, Caliban shows Prospero how the conquered could use the conqueror’s language to defeat the latter.

"You taught me language; and my profit on ’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language."

Hence today in Africa’s literary circles, Prospero is a term used to describe any conqueror. A generalissimo is a rare term used to designate a military general who commands all branches of the military – infantry, mechanized divisions, air force, navy etc. In the context of this poem, "Prospero’s Generalissimo" simply means an all round (effective) war lord or soldier who chooses to serve a foreign conqueror rather than defend the motherland (fatherland).
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Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA


Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Thu Oct 17, 2002 3:12 am

Part Two</a>

<a name="#b1">THE BURNT-OUT CHIEFDOM</a>

From the squalor
In the numerous valleys
Stinking between the "seven hills"
The King Vulture’s concubines plot.

From the squalor
On the flat plains
Stinking around the "green city in the sun"
The chief’s concubines consult the apothecary.

Treacherously, the dwarf sits
On the abandoned stool
For in the fire of abomination
The chiefdom has perished.

As the King Vulture extends his empire
The male subjects of the dwarf chief bow down
Their masculinity lost to the Queen of the courtesans
Eunuchs, running errands for the royal concubine.
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<a name="#b2">THE SUN SHALL RISE AGAIN</a>

Go out my boy
I bore you not to coil
Holding fast to my apron
But to tell him
Who drilled a well of blood
Fair is one bereaved of mischief.

Go out my boy
I bore you not to cuddle
For ever upon these breasts
But to tell him
Who sowed the seeds of genocide
Fair is one bereaved of acrimony.

Go out my boy
I bore you not to cling
To your wife’s petty coat
But to tell him
Who has worshipped the gun
Fair is one bereaved of malice.

Go out my boy
I bore you not to fold
The hands that share the harvest
But to tell him
Who has elbowed the humble
Fair is one bereaved of greed.

Go out my boy
I bore you happily
But for the Nation
Look at the ancestral spear
It looks towards you
Honour it; in you, it sees salvation.

Go out my boy
I bore you courageously
Soon the dawn shall break
The sun shall rise again
The stranger’s meretricious gourd shall be broken
And who says the sun has set for ever?
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Oh Hate! Could you be so victorious?
That the vicious wins Fate on its side
With humanity now in slumber
As Kant might have been
Yet so soon after encounter
With Hume whose vision of that Armada
Had silenced the upright
To remain inaudible as Security
Willfully paves way for conspiracy
As the ancient Roman laments
The heart’s desire remains a wish
Far in the graveyard the innocent
Rests without a monument
Without peace Angels hover above
That land whose escarpment is now unrecognizable.
Without rain the green vegetations fade away
Under the scorched sun the land is bare
At the mercy of the colossus
Corpse abound
To fertilize this land for a lawless terror
What environment to conserve on the Seven Hills.
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<a name="#b4">THE ECLIPSE OF THE UNKNOWN</a>

Like an orphan chick, she wanders lonely
Between the huts in the deserted homestead;
Occasionally falling under the granaries
Now disused, empty of millet, sorghum, smoked meat
But full of hungry lizards, rats and cockroaches.
Her mind roams from this story to that story,
Her eyes linger from this apparition to that apparition.
Transfixed where her grandparents used to rest,
She sees two mounds, red like graves.
Desolate, singing the songs of the departed,
Gradually, she slips into a permanent sleep;
Only for strangers to witness without a ceremony.
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We returned to the plains
Only to find them bare without nature’s blanket
The dry over-burnt grass pricks like a thorn
The red, naked earth cracked knee-deep
As vipers inhabit the water holes
The poachers occupy the warden’s hamlet
Our throats get drier and drier by the turbid water
Who then can quench our thirst?

Soon, on the unclothed one, our eyes set
In melancholy, he coils on a mat at the periphery
His hands, more calloused than those of a quarry worker
The wrinkled face anticipates a decade ahead
The scaly skin betrays a point down the time-chart
But from beneath it oozes the empathy of the noble
High, he rises on to the lofty ground of the castle
Ungarbed though, leads us to the hidden drinking fountain.
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<a name="#b6">A GIFT OF THE DAWN</a>

At the final cock-crow
The breeze of peace awakens me
To remember thus:
By the Originator of existence
Nobody carries two hearts
No heart harbours snobbery
That does not practice tyranny
No heart assimilates vanity
That does not evoke tyranny
No heart locates in itself self-conceit
That does not manifest arrogance
And no arrogance dissipates
Except after gnawing its host.
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<a name="#b7">THE MYTH</a>

In the rough, unlit alley, frightened men
Ran helter-skelter; uncontrollably
Kept hyperventilating.
The inhabitants of the squalid estate fled on hearing
The lowly snarling of the leopard.
And I remained alone, with none of the hitherto
Hobnobbing with me around.
It was for me a confrontation in desolation
For not a single whisper could be heard in
The darkness of the fateful night.
But my honoured and distinguished sister
Who was to be vilified for her faith,
She steadfastly remained to hold the Fort
Indeed, she held back and scared the leopard,
As easily as if it were a mere topsy-turvy.

In the rough, unlit alley, where squeamish
Men were easily rumbled,
The male inhabitants of the ever sleeping
Slum fled when they saw
A jackal yapping in every mirage.
The myth of masculine primacy exploded,
With all its pre-ordained grandeur
Dissolved in the acid of treachery.
Like a child’s balloon, it left no monument,
Except the curse of prejudice.
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The old wife is divorced to give bed to the new
And the child of reason is buried by that of emotion
The cruelty of a man’s Love is his love for a woman
And when the cosmos is set with us all
In a perpetual flux, what last straw to hold?
The serpent of dogma raising its head against human nature
With history pitied against religion
The absolute abhors the relative
When corruption becomes the bedfellow of virtue
When the worst holds sway over the worse
But His Will remains immortal
Manifested in multifarious dimensions.
Darkness paves way for dazzling light
And the vicious at his most is blind.
By a single final blow at the heart
The Pearl is pacified
And the elders ask…
What intruder can laugh last?
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<a name="#b9">LOVE AFTER BLASPHEMY</a>

On the day they cried against God
They made it a Black Friday
And baptized it "Good Friday"
Stealthily they entered
Like a fox
Creeping into a poultry-cage
Confidently they made their way
On that dreadful Friday
When shamelessly they deceived
And had it all sugar-coated
With a word "Liberation"
So cherished, yet so abused
So it sounded odd and
Adored to ruin reason,
Degenerating into chauvinism
At once ruining the teacher’s profession
On the day awfully marked
Sadly remembered
Recalled with watery sullen eyes
Eyes defective not due to disease
But emotions of pity
That has replaced disease
And have achieved effects
None wants to remember the day for history’s pleasure
Yet not a single would forget
For that Friday was the day of the Evil
The day Adam confirmed his exit from Eden
The day trespassers had committed capital sin
The day they had abused and raped
The day they had looted and ransacked
Happily joining sadists and enemies
They separated acquaintances and friends
They planted seeds of mistrust between lovers
And committed an act of psychic violence
So reminiscent of that pagan Mediterranean world
Reflecting the saturnine satyr of an under-world
With their contorted faces
Bearing the physiognomy of criminals
They faced us
Without a choice
We chose to separate
With all that eerie somberness
Hypnotized acquaintances parted
It was as sudden as the first meeting
When four years earlier we had met
We greeted and sat without happiness
An experience of non-happiness without sadness
But the parting was different
With similarity only as apparent as mirage to water
It was a disengagement of the old type
When pagan divorcees took it during Zeu’s time
A pre-historic legacy emulated
Only by the bespectacled diplomat
When he had betrayed diplomacy at once
Only to say an unholy good-bye.
Evoking no indifference
We both felt concerned
As consequently tears dripped down
Shamelessly we had allowed torrents down four cheeks
We both wept…
But why?
Was it mere touch of acquaintances?
Or had love’s story begun unfolding?
They say it catches unawares,
Meandering through the marshes
Until beyond the Cupid valley
When homesteads are drowned in the floods of acrimony.
How to comprehend…?
After all in the Sahara thirst kills even a King.
But who could have carried postmortem on the Pharaohs
When the Phantoms had erased the Sphinx?
In India,
Over-quenching of thirst amounts to tragedy:
Two million women drowned in the Ocean
But no funeral ceremonies were held
As if this was a blessing
To those who breed like rats
We are told the Queen mother could not preach family planning.
So to control population
Some sons had to be sacrificed:
Pakistan dismembered,
Bangladesh created.
So at Karuma 1 one of them had his altar.
Without remorse he accepted the mercenary career.
I could witness sacrificial rites,
His burning beards red hot
Exuding hell-like appearance on the smoldering tank
The Chinese sold it to the Mwalim 2 for the latter’s soul
As a duty unto the master he had to curtail our breath
But our acquaintance was not breathing its last
It experienced untold vicissitudes
First effete
We stood equidistant from point zero
Our feelings changing over years
Emotions effete
As the notion of equinox withered away
Vanishing faster than the bourgeois state
At last reason recovered its property
It was inevitable
Otherwise why should we
Remember Muhammad Iqbal3?
At Makerere4 I heard his echo
And I told her who met me at Moyo5
We played our part well without pulling punches
From our hearts fear was expelled;
It had become incompatible with care
The warmth of blood was ineffective.
It was wise to give way to the wisdom of age;
For there was the solidity
Which solidity arose out of
Having seen more than one has read.
Inevitably fancy begged down.
As much an act as love is a process.
At long last she appeared,
To cheer me up,
To offer me a pillow for a gift,
Only to realize the late truth
That my head had grown.
It was too big for a pillow.
It defied even the size of a chequered head cloth
The one a Palestinian Chief gave me
That day we met in Cyprus.
I had gone to meet him
On his arrival from Beirut
Where some were imitating their foe,
But now a bosom friend,
And so I kept it
Till she arrived
To realize only an arm such as
Familiar could hold my head.

1. Karuma - some small water falls on the River Nile in Uganda.
2. Mwalim – Kiswahili for Teacher.
3. Muhammad Iqbal – the philosophical founder of Pakistan. He was a prolific poet, a philosopher and an orator, etc.
4. Makerere – The most prestigious University in East and Central Africa (situated in Uganda).
5. Moyo – a small town in North West Uganda where the author attended his first secondary school.
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<a name="#b10">THE SIREN</a>

The siren has sounded.
It is time to defy the biting cold,
What water do you lack?
There is plenty of dew, free,
Rub the dirt off your sleepy eyes.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to swallow the cold potato
What cow do you have to milk?
There is abundant milkless tea, without sugar,
Drink it, the sleep in your head will clear.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to forget departing gently,
What majestic walk do you deserve?
Your toes protruding out of your shoes,
Step on the gravel and braze the cold wind.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to forgo the monotonous greetings,
What sociality of the hungry is financially rewarding?
Climb down the stairs into the dungeon.
The machine yearns for your sweat.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to sleep in the city garden,
What food can you afford?
Lie down on the grass; sleep a little in lieu of lunch,
Or, if you can find it, pick a piece of bread from the dust bin.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to forgo the comfort of the garden,
What delicacy should keep you in the garden?
Return to the grave-like dungeon.
The machine yearns for your blood.

The siren has sounded.
It is time to check the pockets of your over-coat,
What empty belly can the pot-bellied master trust?
Resume your walk back to the shanty
Take your empty hands to your hungry children and sick wife.

The sounds of the siren come from a distance.
On the cold floor, a dozen children doze,
Coiling around their mother, two cry incessantly.
On the bamboo bed, the father grinds his teeth, the rheumatic pain cuts deep,
As the mother wonders what medicine shall cure her back ache.

On a set of three stones,
A pot is delicately balanced.
Some wild spinach boils slowly,
And the entire family is in tears,
As the smoke from the wet firewood fills the single-roomed house.

The eldest daughter struggles to clean the damp maize flour of maggots.
Soon the mother licks the wooden laddle,
The father swallows one mouthful.
On rags spread on the cold floor, the children fall asleep, their bellies half empty.
Dead asleep, they snore as their father awaits the next wake-up siren
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Finally the herdsboy’s project gathers to a climax
In Lubiri,* now transformed into a shape like atoll,
The poor king is trapped in his own naiveté.
As Time sails along in its own chariot,
The charm of the son of the hag holds sway.
The courtiers are deluded into the de`-marche of the devious.
The queen mother, in bristful sorrow, does delouse in the courtyard.
The morning erodes the darkness of the night
The hours of ecstasy roll, and from the dell in sight,
A solemn air arises and gnaws into the charm.
In the category of the ephemera, the charm slowly withers off
Whose inward pinches render themselves inefficacious
And the music of the owl recedes further from the ears.
The courtiers, stooped in the foul and the muddy,
Inexorably fall into the delusion of the herdsboy’s promise.
But the subjects embrace the immeasurable horizon of reason.
Jolted from their slumber, they tear the dukedom apart
And they ordain the daily chronicle of a commonwealth.
Like the King and the mother Queen, indeed the herdsboy,
Stuck in the muddy garden of thorns, never extricating,
Justifies the treacherous predication of himself,
Writing on his dull face a fair play of his foolish arrogance
Terrible a maze, the monarchy is trapped there,
Under the debris of the dilapidated palace.
The subjects, awakened by the piercing morning rays
Gallop to liberty, their diligence matching to an invisible strength;
What oracle can rectify the faults of a lackadaisical King
Preoccupied with the jeremiad of the Queen mother?
Finally the charm of the herdsboy
Enters the realm of obituary, no eulogy is read; and
Not the slightest vigour can he emit.
His project, fallen into the dungeon, his ending a despair to them,
The blood–lickers are at a loss,
All taking recourse into it, the abominable hara-kiri.
But our kinsmen, free, released from the evil bondage,
Their prayers are sharp, piercing through the mirage of power,
Rise to stand at the pinnacle of their terrestrial existence.
Yes, liberty in an enduring state,
The commonwealth.
* Lubiri is the Royal Palace of Kabaka (King) of Buganda (in central Uganda). When the then Constitutional or Ceremonial President - the Head of State, the Kabaka Edward Mutesa(the father of the present Kabaka Mutebi) fell apart with the then Prime Minister Dr. Apollo Milton Obote in 1966, the latter launched the republican revolution. The Prime Minister ordered the Uganda Army, under the command of then Col. Idi Amin, to launch an assault on the palace which was destroyed. The republican government turned the palace into a military barracks – the first school of paratroopers established by the Israeli military mission in Uganda at the time. In 1990, Yoweri Museveni, to consolidate his alliance with the conservative factions in Buganda, restored the palace to the royal house of Buganda.
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<a name="#b12">A KING OUTSIDE WED-LOCK</a>

In an abomination of desolation
A King is born.
The ecclesiastics keep the devil’s silence,
With the clergy in Canterbury anaesthetized
Who can excommunicate the king?
With the living memory of Henry VIII,
No Archbishop can put on the Papal shoes
After betraying Catherine of Argon.
Lubiri* has neither baptized one
Nor begotten a strong Cromwell.
How do we recall Thomas More?
No one remembers his saintly acronym.
So the treacherous hands enthrone a king
While the restless heart of the dejected Queen Mother beats fast
Groaning under the Royal pretence,
The heart’s vane veered away from Norfolk
Towards Rome.
Prayers are said and
The Holy See beckons for consolation.
But no tears compensate for lost pride
Who cares for her?
A modern Alexander seeking a belated greatness
Is uneasily allied to a Prince of opportunity,
Mischeave, the religion of the courts.
From outside wed-lock, a King appoints a Bishop
What court-sin is pardonable?

* Lubiri is the Royal Palace of Kabaka (King) of Buganda (in central Uganda).
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<a name="#b13">A SONG FOR THE LITTLE ONE</a>

My beloved daughter
What will you call me?
Even above the age of wisdom
My name seems forgotten
Their sadism has engulfed my person
Their cynicism has befallen you.

For a while the harridan is not lame
For a while the robber is honest.

My beloved daughter
You don’t smile
They won’t allow you
Recoil onto grandma’s lapse
She loves you
You are her very self

For a while I shall sing
For a while I shall be named.

My beloved daughter
The hour is near
The sun doesn’t set forever
The morning knocks at the door
The cock crows finally
And the birds sing aloud

Finally I shall be named
Finally I shall be called by your name.
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<a name="#b14">WARN THE SQUIRREL!</a>

You squirrel!
Clad in utter darkness,
Fathomlessly opaque,
Do you know?
A fool’s walking stick supports the wise.
Don’t you know what stinks from your bed room?

You squirrel!
Your ancestors ran away, leaving no kraal.
How did the gourd get under your bed?
Don’t you see a strange ladle in your pot?
How can a sheath hold two swords?
Can a sane man surrender the clan-spear?
Can he exchange it for a stranger’s spear?
Who is that strange man?
Smoking a long pipe in your wife’s boudoir?

You squirrel!
We shall flung open the hell’s gate,
A gate made of base metals,
And we shall push you into the farthest oven.
With your unsure feet,
You will walk on the burning thorns.

Come over the Eastern wall
Don’t fear the dewy ground,
It is a tranquillizer.
Catch the morning light
Perish in the darkness of hell.
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<a name="#b15">THE NILE</a>

Oh mighty Nile, my mighty Nile,
Is this you who now flows silently?
Whose banks are already dry
And no more fish is washed ashore?
Have you mighty Nile
Succumbed to the sand dunes,
Artificially erected to protect
The gloomy faces of the hyenas?
Where are the roaring thunders
Of Karuma Falls? Have they retreated
Into the heavens? No!
What angel retreats
In the face of Lucifer?
Owen Falls no longer smokes,
Since its smoldering fire is dead.
But above, there are clouds gathering,
And the rains loom large,
Itching to contribute their shares,
So that once again, the mighty Nile
Shall overflow with the rich perch.
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Like a ritual, by the busy highway, just completed with tarmac
On a delicately balanced bamboo chair, he sits;
His mind lost in the fathomless
Abyss of the bitter history.
His bold head, dotted with patches of grey hair
Seems about to burst with the wisdom of age.
The face is a cluster of wrinkles
And the eyes, though fallen far,
Far deep into the unusually hollow sockets
Are penetratingly visionary.
Seeing beyond the horizon of his sight,
Yet not too preoccupied with his humbled stomach
The old man, from a bird’s eye view
Can see how unnaturally long and thin
The necks of his granddaughters are.

Besides him, the youngest of the girls,
Born on the eve of the departure of the butterflies
When the reign of the bedbugs began,
Drops a sack of fresh maize, hurriedly
Harvested from their only one acre land
That he bought on a loan yet to be repaid.
It was to be his reward that the Minister promised
For spending years in the forest
And for the decade the son spent in detention
When the wife and the daughters relentlessly
Kept transporting food to the youth in the forest.
Those were the years, bitter for them
But sweet for others, when as a young lad
And son of the senior paramount chief,
The Minister attended the Christian mission school.

Looking twice the senior of the thirty year old Minister,
The haggard eighteen-year-old grandson
Prepares fire, a mixture of charcoal and
Some cow dung to camouflage the charcoal
From the searching eyes of the forest officers
Illegal and more serious than sniffing of cocaine by tourists,
The use of firewood and charcoal has become.
Soon a horde of plantation labourers and factory workers
Descend on the roadside restaurant,
Eating the freshly roasted maize with enviable appetite.
Like it was an involuntary reflex action,
Their attention is diverted to the road as
In different models of Mercedes Benzes, Pajeros, BMWs, Sedans, etc
Executives elegantly dressed in suits imported from Paris
Are driven to the new industrial site.

For the big function, attracting international media,
Friends from across the vast seas have come,
A new insecticide factory has just been built.
What has remained unannounced though
Are the names of the owners and directors.
After all the butterflies have departed, but
Are they not of the same clan as the chameleons?
Those who have just flown in new cars for the local chiefs?
For what purpose is the new factory? How urgent is it?
Aloud but in self-pity, a plantation worker wonders!
A week ago, to malaria, he lost a two-year old son.
Much like a soliloquy, the draught grandson,
His real face hidden behind a mask of hunger,
Counts the lorries of drinks meant for the function,
Or better still, meant only for the guests in the pavilion.

To the astonishment of the plantation labourers,
And to the annoyance of the few domestic servants,
As to the admiration of the factory workers,
The old man, hitherto quiet, absorbed in the deep thought of history,
Softly, with the force and authority of wisdom of age speaks out.
"When it was raining on us, we thought it was the rain of life,
And we took the bedbugs around us for our true leaders.
We also forgot the true nature of the chameleons.
But our leaders knew the kinship between the butterflies and the chameleons.
So it happened, when the butterflies departed,
Our leaders, the bedgugs, invited the chameleons to sit amongst us;
Naturally, the slow but witty ones assumed our colours.
It is to the chameleons, this factory belongs; as for the bedbugs, they will use
The insecticide to eradicate the ungrateful humans who chased away the butterflies."
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<a name="#b17">WHO IS SINKING?</a>

Selected rays
of light escape from
the lonely moon,
stealthily traveling
through the maze of
dark clouds,
arrive at our cold
bleeding feet,

Our faces dance
to a tune whose
we can’t tell
whose beats are
not strange to our

Far at the western
end of the avenue,
a shadowy creature
thins into the dark
under the blow
the trees suffer
the street lamps.

We feel cold drizzles
cutting through
our half-severed toes
as camouflaged
fatigues emerge
from the dewy hedges,
denying the dawn
a warm welcome,
an arrival turned

Mother earth is
opened, the red soil
gives the dewy,
glittering prism of
the grass
some reddish spectrums,
injecting a bitter feel
into the aesthetic.

The artist’s eyes
turn into a spring
of some salty

Who can alert others,
when the thick mist
censors all ululations
and the drums are
unceremoniously buried
under the reddish lake?

Loneliness envelops
the poor souls;
we are not sure
who is sinking,
the feet?
the ground?
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<a name="#b18">THE ENEMY BROTHERS</a>

Abel and Cain, two brothers
Who never ran their race
The full length of love,
And so prematurely ruptured
The linking tube glued by blood.

But did anyone ever ask,
Of the two, brothers of love and hate,
Who was short? Who was tall?
Who has ever asked
For the analysis of their pigmentation?

Why should they now care
If one’s nose is long and thin?
Why should they now care
If one’s nose is short and broad?
What difference does it make?

Cousins or brothers, from one womb
Or from two different wombs,
What does it add or subtract?
When is Africa, my father’s brother is my father
And my mother’s sister is my mother.

So many questions to ask,
With so rare answers to pick from.
No one can tell what the innocent souls
Violently excised from their bodies are thinking,
As none asks who sold the fateful missile.

Contented, we relapse into complacency
As Arusha undergoes confirmation without
Baptism and is renamed The Hague.
Hundreds pull up in the town, awash with wigs
To read judgments written before the courts were.

The known culprits celebrate with ice creams
Capping their cakes baked of unknown flesh.
And the anonymous victims, shivering in the cold
Drenched in the unkind tropical downpours,
Miserably watch the remains of the jet smoldering away

Who manufactured the fateful missile?
A stinger-flash that in the twinkling of an eye
Changed the course of history, cruelly and
Fraudulently wrote new textbooks of jurisprudence
And ushered Cain’s Attorney onto the Bench.

Who sold the fateful missile?
From whose purse was the piper paid?
What mind shall answer the unasked questions
When the finger that pressed the button
Chuckles over the hogwash with the prosecutors?

The wailing of the unnameable widows recedes
And the sun, far in New York, unkindly sets on their echoes.
As bundles of blue papers and green notes roll for their carpets,
Diplomatic number plates encircle the ice-capped Kilimanjaro;
And in the thick of the Congo’s equatorial forest, justice rots away.
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Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA


Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Sun Aug 10, 2003 4:41 am


Until then, power seemed sweet,
And absolute power seemed
To taste absolutely sweet.
And on the other side of the sea
Where the sun sets
In fate’s benign indifference,
Bitterness did not exist.
Not until its hot, sour reality
Dripped on the waging tongue
And only as, with his
Yet unclipped wings,
Over the stinking ghetto cities
Of the poor labourers,
Imperturbable, he flew into
The absolute clover
Of his imperial retreat,
Did the gory dawn
Dawn upon the Prince of fortune
That what honey he all along
Imagined to be enjoying,
It was the illusory
Sweet glamour of real bitterness
Bitterness, which did not dissolve
But rested under the Pearl Harbor
To be resurrected into
A universal day mare
Whose bitter tale,
Only the unwelcome
Ides of "September 11"
Could tell it all.
*Composed on the night of September 10/11, 2002 in the sad memory of the innocent lives that perished in the tragedy of September 11 and the wanton bombings of civilian positions in Afghanistan that followed thereafter.
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<a name="#c2">SAFE FROM THE HARD JAWS.</a>

In a cave like a grave,
he sits on a rough stone
barely visible under
the thick blanket of darkness.

His eyes, like the ember
dying away on a make-shift
table, fade out of vision.

Craning for a glimpse of the rare
light escaping through
the surviving leaves,
his chains giggle and attract
from the pylon of brute
in semi-darkness the hot
burning whips, stripping bare
the guilty animal in him,
the most powerful of the humans.

Like a curtain falling on a stage
hosting a real tragedy,
dark leaves fall on
and the pretence of light
comes into reality
to affirm the place
of that abject,
guilty darkness.

From it emerges a sight
cursing the births of all cowards
as their maturation
does terminate,
but in betrayal.

Able to walk only in spirit,
his feet and his hands
act the same, on four limbs
he makes to walk,
more of a confirmation
than mimicking
the animal state they conferred
on him in the dark dungeon.

The hot blood dripping
from the bare back
make of the ground a slippery
cliff edge,
and his torn shirt form
a knot a round the ankles
of the hostile fate.

Down the thorny walls
of the cliff,
the wielder of the burning whip,
his face creases of wrinkles,
rolls involuntarily,
and by its own noose,
fate is tied to a sharp peg.

Suddenly the standing spirit
permeates the motionless body
and a working mother
is awakened by
the whistling of birds.

Another dawn,
a new one welcomes
a new light,
and suddenly
on her back,
hardened by
the woman paining in
her real self,
she carries him far
into the deep middle
of the sacred stream.

Was it not at the banks
of this same stream
he graduated into manhood?

Now in the deep middle
he feels the cold cure
that restores the peeled off skin
erasing the scars of attrition
so freeing his sight
to see naked
the betrayal
in the kindred blood.
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<a name="#c3">THE LAST TRAJECTORY</a>

Into the thick green of the flapping leaves,
Solemnly, a tender body disappears,
And the dim lights are humbled into further dullness,
Our memory of her dissolves in the thought streams,
Percolating through our hazy minds and nowhere resting at all.
Tragedy has regenerated the drooping plant of the wounded love,
And the streams of water flow from a salty spring
Beneath the pupils, deep in the naked skulls
To augment the dew and irrigate anew the sapling
Of a love resurrected into a new spring
On the day I regrettably regretted the inevitable,
Her return journey, and wished forever we remained
Our own guests in this delicate, fragile, easy-to-break house.
But the trajectory of my wish veered, and turned backwards
To strike back at the heart of my heart,
Dizzy, I fell striking open the hard earth,
So that after her, I may be lowered for ever,
Solemnly to disappear down the memory lane.
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<a name="#c4">UNKNOWN TREASURES</a>

Heavy, like the steel door of the cashier’s strong room,
The whoosh was hurriedly slid shut in my face,
But the reality, density of a feather,
Could not sink into my heart,
Heavy like an oil spill in the turbulent Gulf.
I fell back to wallowing in the consoling
Of our infantile dreams.
Born on a date then happily remembered,
The scribe wrote the explicit on the marble.
Then his hands reached for the second line,
But up, into my face, he looked,
Easily decoding the physiognomy,
His hands trembled not in the fear of writing
The sad and tragic fact of life, rather
The commiseration in him gripped him feverishly
Turning into a threatening unknown animal inside,
He nimbly scribbled,
The date none delights in its remembrance.
I realized it was all over
But chose to believe in my consoling dreams
And turned my eyes away from the grim faces.
My cardiac stability was restored by the green grass
That soon started to grow,
Neutralizing the painful sensation,
So painfully produced
By the reddish soil atop the mound.
Like alcohol is to the alcoholic,
Darkness arrives to postpone my woes
Till the birds announce the arrival of dawn,
Its successor, the glittering dewy morning,
Depicting the golden and the sweet,
Apt pointers at unknown treasures
That could have been hidden
Safely behind the whoosh of the cashier’s steel door.
And I, gathering a new strength,
I felt the urge to be with her.
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<a name="#c5">GONE ALONE</a>

Was I always good to you?
I cannot now tell, even
Though our inevitable separation
Was just, without any itchy.

It is all the burden now upon me
As I wonder what last words
Remained, locked in your breasts
Only to be interred with your bones.

Who can answer the nagging question?
When I closest to you, know not the answer.
But there are the gossips who know not our elegy
Harshly writing the eulogy on my behalf.

In tribute to you, I shall write a monosyllable stanza
Only wishing that the ink powder shall be mixed
By my own hands, with my own tears
So that I can imagine it to be immortal.

I stand in the falling hailstorm, and
Tolerate the drench so that my tears
Should flow in the rains to sink into the good earth
That harshly hides you from me.

This time I am unable to surrender,
Not that I am any stronger after you
Rather, my will to act, forwards or backwards
Is vanished, gone to a destination I know not.

Might you have traveled with my will?
This is the crux of my incessant wailing.
I must bear the suffering until silently fate silences me
And like you, I travel alone to join you.

Even though you came with me and did bear in adversity,
You traveled alone, leaving my eyes perpetually wet.
Alone, I must now follow you into your last abode,
So much the harshness of love, the harsh love, the humans must love to love.
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Africa, with your people writhing in anguish,
Your sons submerged in the tortuous search for self-discovery,
Painfully watching their sisters’ torments of soul searching,
The essential hub of your uncountable millennia of existence,
Brutally subjected to excision, and buried under the rubble
Of distorted poetry, forged history and imposed politics,
Your own achievements in the arts, the sciences,
Your architecture, the long generation of philosophic reflection,
All suffocated under the boots of learned folly and prejudice.
With the banning of the griot tradition,
And the shredding of the records of Timbuktu, Kilwa, Nubia,
Your chiefdom is consigned into the museum of fathomless bin.
Africa, your own mirrors have been smashed
And the stones of Zimbabwe illegally shipped through Sofala
To the Port of Liverpool for building the Westminster,
What image of yourself do you see?
Hanging in air, you cannot place your own
Indigenous mat in a place, for your land,
On which is the place for your mat, is held at ransom.
But in this, the robbed land, exists the paradox of panacea,
A sweet cure beneath the layer of the imported quinine.
Unbeknown to the looters, the spirit of self-regeneration
Permits it, your land, Africa’s land.
Africa, your being, your essential locus dislocated, but not fractured,
Look ahead, even though the present possibilities are negated,
The road ahead, the road of open possibilities,
Leads you away from self-damnation.
The avenue to the decisive postures lies ahead of you,
When the erstwhile tormentors of Africa,
Your Africa, My Africa, Our Africa,
Shall plunge dead into Lake Victoria,
And float along the Nile to dissolve in the Mediterranean,
A fitting souvenir for the paranoiac atavists.
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<a name="#c7">SOUNDS FROM THE DUNGEON</a>

Ten rains ago, shortly after mid-night,
Within the enclaves of the walls of mourning,
His spirit ascended to the heavens,
Throwing down at us its last graceful gaze.

The last particles of energy flowed out of us.
We gasped and let out involuntarily the last sounds, as
Feelings of loss emanating from some unknown source
Flowed momentarily with some alien force into our imagination.

In a darkness grinning with threatening silence,
We fell supine, waiting for the return of the lost sleep
As yesterday’s smile kept appearing in a monstrous apparition
And incognito, tomorrow’s song arrived to announce its dreaded presence.

We were lampooned in the sarcastic tabloid pages
For which the amorous cartoonists were handsomely paid in diamonds
Like the mouth of one on the prowl, the damsel’s purse readily opened
As she simultaneously spoke some incomprehensible tigress.

But when in a cave like a grave we were chained to creaking chairs,
The masses of cloud moved and the blue skies eluded her sense
The rains returned from holiday, bringing with them glittering willows,
And the distant skies were lit by the ravening spectrums.

As she fell on her own nail studded floor,
Like a screaming gull, her howls sounded a shrilling siren.
We were forced up before sleep touched our tired eyelids, and like the dogging,
We dodged the burning pylons to breathe the scented air of poetic justice.
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<a name="#c8">IN HAPPINESS, I CRY</a>

By the time the moon
Shall have come out
From the sea-bed,
And its teeth
Brightly shining
Over our heads,
We shall celebrate
The festival of
The new harvest
With the opera
Of joy and triumph.
Bereavement shall give
Way to the trilling
Of ululations,
Sandwiched between
The laughter of white
Teeth and the sweet
Tears of merry-making.
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From the fire in the hearth after the evening meals,
Gentle rays, bright like that proverbial diamond
Spit from the belly of the sacred serpent,
Are emitted to illuminate the courtyard
As the remote stars, shinning once again in the clear night
And the bright moon shining at its brightest,
Together with the terrestrial creatures, witness
The guardian of the revered ancestral shrine
Sprinkle on your feet the water of blessing,
Thus imbuing us with the hitherto lacking optimism.

I now retreat to cultivate the fertile slopes
Of the hillocks and grow yams in the valley between
As you search for fire to set ablaze and burn into oblivion
The accursed bush that has sheltered the leopard.
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<a name="#c10">THE DEMISE OF THE TRAITOR.</a>

You who kept your palms unblistered
Never did you mind dinning with the hyenas
As the music of the owl eerily filled the thick air,
Can you now hear the bells of the herds?

I can see the children, free
In their naked innocence, and
On their full bellies dancing.
And I can hear them singing
The praises of their darling bulls.
From afar, what do you see?
The whirlwind of curse?
No. It is the hurricane of life
Caused by the vigour of the youth
Invigorated by the yellow flowers
Of the tamarind and
The swollen heads of the millet

You who abolished the singing
Of your grandmother’s songs
And burnt your daughter’s tongue
For reciting her aunt’s poems.
The soot of shame, hanging loosely,
Has fallen down, down on the ground,
Trampled upon by our victorious youth.
Witness as I roll myself
All over the smooth compound,
The thorn less homestead I own.
Why should I fear?
It is the ground of my homestead.

Listen to the joy of the mothers,
The pleasure of our sisters.
The moon of the firm-kneed
Shines before dusk and forever,
The sun of the spineless is eclipsed.
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Over the hill of power under the fading moonlight
Compromised by the over-cast clouds, without rain though,
Downhill, black bespattered vehicles depart, their headlamps dead,
And the shadows over-grow to envelop the guards,
Loyal and disciplined standing at attention to the passing cargo.

The malevolence of the fallen glittering stars
Reflected remotely in the shallow ponds downhill,
And at an obtuse angle, the guards catch for their premonition
The night flies falling off from the boots of the departing cars,
Acrid smell over-powers the sweet evening aroma of the hibiscus.

In a single night, innocence loses its radiance
Even though our memory of moonlight persists obstinately.
The descent of the stars into the murky pond
Contaminated by the decaying fish, frogs and toads
Betray an everlasting fissures in the human’s relation to nature.

Our meditations upon the starry celestial inhabitants
Wander about aimlessly to rest on the red bespattered blaze of glass.
And we see in the silhouette the apparition reflecting
With a deepened darkness the cargo unknown to the guards,
Thus fixing our gloomy gaze into a garnish suffusion of darkness over the hill.

The vulture, having ordered the scaffold erected in the castle,
Curses the wisdom of the wind, which rudely awakened
The disciplined sleeping guards to the reality beyond their oaths.
The wisdom of the wind reversed into the curse of the wind for them,
As the vulture summons the guards to the scaffold for their last supper.
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Standing at the top of the Andes across the border in Mexico,
I peeped through a pair of binoculars
And saw in the Texas Ranch a stone faced hoodlum
Or, a serial executioner leaning by the guillotine.
At Peter’s gate, I did not know how to communicate
My feelings to the white collared priest.
Would it have mattered by what nomenclature
The altar boys reported to him?

A juggler juggling green bucks
Thrusts glace cherries and bartered bread
Into the priest’s mouth and pushes
Into the palm of the altar boys jewelries of unknown value.
The white collar loses the snowy colour it
Was given by the snowy mountain cap
Of Africa’s Kilimanjaro as a necklace of dark soot
Is imported from the London Chimney
To palm off on the dumb priest.

The learned judge can hardly utter
A single word as his mouth,
Half open, half closed, is staffed
With the old milkman’s gloves and the filthy rags.
His mouth sealed, no one can speak
Except the juggler who seeks to teach
Us how to bathe many a times in a swimming pool
Within the sandy precincts of the Red Sea.

He has never heard of Macbeth but
Seeks to occupy the Chair of English Literature at Oxford
Our fears approach the pie of truth, for ominously
The brother skulking behind the Bench at Florida,
Like a besotted lover on the Miami Beach, beckons him
To stroke the wig, even though he was caught robbing the Pygmy
Of King Lear’s hat that survived the balls of fire
The mad eagle vomited over the ancient city of Babylon,
But got finally pierced by the Pygmy’s straw.

Who can repatriate reason from its forced asylum
And settle it back home after the perfervid Rancher’s perfidy
Has stirred the spirits of the wild and let loose
The rabid dogs of greed across the Jordan River
To roam in and about the orphanage of the robbed?
With the wise Solomon’s stool desecrated and his name
Edited out of the books of law, whose exhortation
Can save humanity? Only the women sweeping the Oracle’s shrine.
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<a name="#c13">IF I WAS</a>

I was alone on a cold floor
Under the cover of the thick icy air,
Sleepless during the previous fortnight,
I fell asleep, not to sleep but
To dream of the most bizarre.
And I did dream I was placed
Before a horse placed before the cart.
It turned out my sleep was
The medium of hallucination
That perforce carried me
Through a blur worse than life
In shoals of fragmented existence.
I was awakened by a staccato
Of a smuggled Kalashnikov
That drowned the morning anthem
Of the birds, the auxiliary call to
The dawn prayer I was accustomed to.
By the time I woke up, my face
Was wet with the cold dew
Oozing from the concrete ceiling.
My voice was so hoarse as to grind
To fineness the silt on the river bed.
I asked for water to drink, but
The voice at the corridor, accompanying
The onomatopoeic threats of the marching boots
Ordered me back into my solitary chill spell.
I watched helplessly the spirit of the present
Dissipating as yesterday’s grime was vividly
Displayed, and the cinders of tomorrow
Unkindly beckoned the remaining warmth
Out of my marrow and away from me;
I wondered in soliloquy: If I was.
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<a name="#c14">THE SPEAR OF MY YOUTH</a>

Here to you,
I hand over
The spear of my youth.
Did I ever swear
Never to part with it?

Yes, for your audacity
I retract.
But to escape
The sin of oath breaking
I shall sacrifice
The ceremonial ram
On the clan’s parent anthill.

Here to you,
I hand over
The spear of my youth.
Did I ever swear
Never to part with it?

Give me the leopard skin,
The symbol of your maturity,
When you single handedly
Saved the family kraal
And you had the jaws
Of the white-black spotted
Intruder broken.

Here to you,
I hand over
The spear of my youth.
Did I ever swear
Never to part with it?

Take my hunter’s sandals.
Set off on the unbeaten path.
But before you do so,
Here is a well-decorated gourd,
It is filled to the brim
With the blessed ancestral millet gruel,
Take it, drink the blessing.
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<a name="#c15">PASSING THE BATON</a>

Bold, the passing years clean my head;
Grey, the passing years paint the hair,
Now in patches, like oasis in a desert.
Less rich in intelligence, I grow.
But the eggs of wisdom continue hatching
And admonishing me to surrender the spear
To him, who can run faster and
Throw it with my past accuracy,
Thus humble the buffalo
So that our women may at dawn
In delight and without fear of death
Fetch water from the stream
Whose cold water did wash our sleepy faces,
Awakening us to see beyond the mist
And recognize the beauty of our lost beads.
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<a name="#c16">THE PRIMORDIAL PLEASURE.</a>

The moon shines brightly over our heads
And the girls knitting pick needles from the ground.
Above the moon’s bright perimeters, the stars
In their innocent remoteness, display their
Sparkling dots in the vast celestial sea, as if pleasing the angels.

The blue glimpses of the aloof sky, reaching us
On the terrestrial plane, after journeying uninterrupted
Between the mobile masses of the white clouds,
Imbue our senses with a new found infantile innocence
And we feel like recalled to Eden without writing any examinations.

The polite rains exhort the thunders to keep at bay
And the winds for a while agree to armistice as
Our ears dance to the choir of the heavenly
Liquids and the zinc roofs even though we have
Never seen the conductor or learnt the sol-fa syllables.

In the bright green willows and the slant
Of the glittering strings, the eyes derive their pleasure.
The loneliness of the heart is terminated as,
Flying over the eastern walls, life giving sun rays
Beget the spectrums of nature’s prism.

And we wonder why mountains should be broken
When rain waters can wash onto the pavements
Gold and diamonds to pick without the palms blistering.
Who says in the wanton destruction of the nature’s prism
There is always sweet honey flowing without the sting of the bee?
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<a name="#c17">THE RIVER OF TIME *</a>

The clock ticks unimpeded
Baptizing each day and month
And numbering years as they fly.
And so the river of time is made
Rapidly flowing through the world.
Then I watch the ageless sun
Monotonously making one way trips
Through the ever azure sky
Without a sign of fatigue
And never any smaller or bigger.
And it leaves no footmarks.
The earth too remains immobile,
Uneroded like a rock in floods.
*This poem, which was to be one in a series under a title then not suggested, was co-authored with my late dear brother Muddathir Ajotia Nasseem who died shortly after. Hence I have left it as originally co-written.
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<a name="#c18">TIME'S CHEMISTRY *</a>

What is time?
What distinguishes yesterday from today?
The world gives an enigmatic smile
And ushers me to a mirror for answer.
The truth rears its head telling me
I am the litmus paper
Upon whom time shows its acidity
Or a milestone for time.
Is forced down my throat
Like quinine to a restive baby.
It cuts my heart like a sword
And burns the ulcer like pepper.
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<a name="#c19">TIME'S DESERT ON MY HEAD *</a>

I take the roll call of my hairs
And notice their absence
Leaving a shinning scalp
Like a mirage in Arabian deserts.
While the few survivors
From the skirmishes of forces of chronology
Fall victim to grey fever.
Even far down on my chin
Where some seek refuge
The grey bombs rain on them.
And I watch myself
A piece of soap in water
Rapidly wearing away
Or butter in desert sun
Irretrievably melting and
Sinking into the shifting sand
Or a razor blade in dew
Constantly consumed by rusting.
*This poem, which was to be one in a series under a title then not suggested, was co-authored with my late dear brother Muddathir Ajotia Nasseem who died shortly after. Hence I have left it as originally co-written.
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<a name="#c20">TIME UP! *</a>

Some hooting!
Second by second
Drawing nearer
And second by second
More urgent!
Oh! What is the matter?

The timekeeper's chariot is come
With time's immigration police
'No extension of visas
We are computerized', they say,
As I trudge through fate's marsh;
With chameleon muscles
And in the face of a chariot,
I am to cross the highway.

I cast my eyes back to ask
What mark have I left?
What legacy?
What profit?
*This poem, which was to be one in a series under a title then not suggested, was co-authored with my late dear brother Muddathir Ajotia Nasseem who died shortly after. Hence I have left it as originally co-written.
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<a name="#c21">HOMESTEAD LOST</a>

In the valley where grass grows tall
Beneath it the stream dries.
Where can the Uncle grow more rice?
Grandfather, wherever in your grave,
Listen carefully:
Your grandson starves in a strange land
His chest polluted with chalk-dust.
He will die a martyr to be forgotten.

Who is he?
What is he?

The elder brother of my mother,
Your elegy is lost;
Lost in the whirlwind of their treachery.
Our clan market is closed without a ceremony
Without a passport,
Grandmothers immigrate to Zaire.
And in her absence,
Who sweeps the ground?

Already tall grass covers the homestead
Beneath bayonets dissect bellies
Till in December barrels set the bush on fire,
A wild bush-fire that roasts rats.
On the foots of the hills, goats perish
Burning into ashes.
Only the bitter aroma is the share
Left behind for vultures.
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<a name="#c22">I FEEL HOME-SICK</a>

A city in the sun.
But the sun is hidden
It never shines brightly.

I feel cold,
A woolen coat,
A pullover,
How to acquire one
When the pockets are empty

A city in the sun.
Indeed the sun is exposed
It ever shines brightly.

I feel hot.
A turban,
A robe.
How to acquire one
When the pockets are empty.

For sure,
The birthplace is sacred,
Where the umbilical cord is cut,
Where lies the earth that covers it,
A bleeding heart finds its bandage.

Next to paradise
Every child is born.
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<a name="#c23">THE WISHFUL TIME</a>

With a domineering canopy
to throw over,
the gloomy dusk arrives
imposing the thick curtain
of opaque darkness
over the trees
to deny
the unromantic eyes
their only pleasure,
a gift of the evening’s
retiring rays,
the silhouette
a reminder
of the yester-beauty
as the still, dark clouds
stir the troubled storms
out of their celestial
and in protest
the peace loving heaven
withdraws its bristle
fearing thunder’s jealousy
emitting burning lights.

We cannot find candles
to buy,
and darkness
absorbs into its uncertain
all human hopes.

The rains pound hard,
fast tearing asunder
the hard surface,
washing away
hopes of consolation,
thus consigning us
to wishing
today did not arrive
and tomorrow should have
come yesterday.

Against our wishful feelings
the storm of Time
blows hard,
heating our nostrils
into some brown molten,
sticky drips follow.

Bleak times have come
and refused
to dry away
with our dirty sweat,
the blunt contents
of our quivers,
they silence the harpes
of our bows;
and then out of a harsh
nozzle, the vampire’s
hostile finger
maliciously jettisons
some hot rainbows
of burning copper,
sending us
on a gloomy day
to hurriedly construct
some unmarked graves
when the mothers wonder
whether the sun
did set yesterday
or, has risen today.

The mothers withdraw,
brooding over the loss
of the seeds of
their wombs, and
like mantis
we doze momentarily
and relapse into wishing
today did not arrive
and tomorrow should have
come yesterday.
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<a name="#c24">The Boy's Fatal Singsong</a>

In the midst of the murky sinuous path of a serpent,
They saw him, clumsily sitting on a stool, the three legs
Curved up in a shape of some monstrous animal,
And besides him who held a bow, two symbols of his proclivity
Laid bare: a pile of poisoned arrows out of their worn-out quivers
And a rusty, bloodstained spear placed askew against the shrub,
Thorny it is, the only plant that has survived the fatal drought.
Behind him, holding a pile of toadstools, his coadjutor,
The harridan turned her sombre eyes to look hard
And askance at the passing hunters as if their appearance,
Sudden on the scene, had interrupted her reverie.
Even though not inured, they despised the pairs' malediction,
Demonological prayer, for bestiality as hocus-pocus,
Seeing in them, the tail waging the toothless bulldog.
Soon they saw, emerging from the bush behind them,
An iron horse turning from green to ecru, and riding
Upon it was one whose arrival, incognito, did portend pogrom.
Entranced, they stood ruing over the distant smoky gloom
Of their dwellings, realizing belatedly though, beneath
The sweetness of last night's singsong was the hissing of a serpent.
This poem was first published in the Meeting of the Minds Journal Vol.1 No.8
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<a name="#c25">The Subterranean Curse*</a>

Dark storm is exponentially gathering over Ur Chaldea,
And in a dark room, the barons are seated around a red table.
They are in a symposium, celebrating some sorcery.
Their mood, triumphal, revelling in evil success
They have registered after devouring the child of reason.
Scarcely does their own mortality cross their minds,
Yet if jolted from their dead senses,
They should seek to know the bitter truth


Every date precedes a date
Before 9/11 there was 9/10
Every date follows a date
After 9/11 there was 9/12.

But when the child of reason, voraciously devoured
And at the mercy of the steaming belly of the beast
Dissolves, and the wild fury of the beast is unfettered
What is left for us, those caged with barbed wires, witnessing
The burial of a wedding party under the rubbles of fury,
The fury which untrimmed, has grown wild, and over shadows
The castle; the prince can’t see beyond the thicket, and so
For the greed of the subterranean, he builds a scaffold, thus


Every date will always be preceded by a date
And before 9/11, there will always be 9/10
Every date will always be followed by a date
And after 9/11, there will always be 9/12.

Hence when the wise East shall have released the sun
And the scaffold shall have melted in the desert heat,
The child of reason shall resurrect, rejuvenated in spirit
And over Ur Chaldea, the dark storm shall dissipate
And the strong monsoon winds shall blow the stetson away,
To settle in a dark cave, wherein is the smoldering
Dream of the prince; his haughtiness rejected by mother earth,
He will remain bound to the cancerous shackles of arrogance, not


Every date will always be preceded by another date
Before another 9/11, there will always be another 9/10
Every date will always be followed by another date
After another 9/11, there will always be another 9/12.

Then only Africa, basking in nature’s gift of abundant sunshine,
From its heart, sweet music shall flow, its melody filling
The cosmos with the legendary patience, that beyond and above all
Has endured the vicissitudes visited upon it by the invisible detonators.
From atop its bronze towers, the bugle of Christopher Okigbo shall**


"AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us on the shore
Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;
The new star appears, foreshadows its going
Before a going and coming that goes on forever…"


The subterranean will continue flowing,
Its blessing and the curse intermingling
So that when the shafts are lowered down
What will gush up into the barrel of greed -
The blessing or the bitter curse of human sacrifice?
*Composed on November 30, 2002.
**Christopher Okibgo (a Nigerian) was one of the most remarkable poets of Africa. He died in a military uniform at the rank of Major on the Nsukka battlefront in 1967 while fighting for the secessionist cause of Biafra.
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Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA

Part Four

Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Thu Aug 14, 2003 8:13 am

Part Four

<a name="#d1">COURAGE BETRAYED</a>

The civilized one is modern
And she does belong to the City. It
Was by sheer accident and fault
The mother delivered her in the forest
And called it a village, so awful
Without zinc and brick houses. She
Is a primitive mother never to show
Nakedness in a theatre where young
Girls cut the skin and seeing whence
They came loose all shame. The old
Mother adores the village where none
Searches a place to spit in. There
Are flies all the same feeding on
The milk that has beautified the
Plump mother of this city girl. Yes,
She has read in the City extensively
And intensively.

Thus proudly, like
The Edonian King, acknowledges
The faults of others’ histories.
She has no taste for orature, the
Medium by which the local teacher
Imparts conservative, unscientific ideas
To his disease infested children. All
Pot-bellied and malaria-infested
For suckling superstitions from
Milkless breasts, unaccustomed to
Brassiere. No, the City girl can’t
Endure any longer. She emigrates from
Pasture-lands to the City where she
Can love to be loved. A treasure for
The City boys requires no blessing
Of the elders. Their’s is not the
Arranged marriage and the parents of
The city-borns offer the children
Lessons in sexology; yes it is
A popular city discipline. It
Over shadows Socrates’ ethics. It is the
Blessing of our age when man makes
His own master, a machine to rule.

I didn’t know it.
I am a village boy, never had I
Got fascinated till the day of the
Chief’s announcement. As I obeyed and
Sailed along the Nile to collect fish.
It was a short distance and the Cataracts
Curtailed my freedom of movement. Ashore,
I pulled off and met him, a local
Fisherman. He was hospitable, he
Was not a city boy. But had he not
Seen more than the book? He told
Me it all about her in the City. I
Sailed down and saw without a conquest.
I didn’t want being a hero, for fear
Of the sight. Like a vulture, the City
Girl grows claws. I thought a vulture
In the century of the moon was humanized
Or vice versa. The claws, red as if
The City girl had been skinning a
Carcass and the lips dipped in a bowel
Of blood. She feasts on blood! But why?
Timidly, I ventured to ask. Afraid of
The sight, I could not forget that it’s
A coward whose homestead lasts longer.
Here is the City Girl, audaciously
Looking into the eyes of a man, as if
Ready to assault the loins.

"To grab
Them all. Those vagabonds often want
To escape without paying my dues. Yes,
My dues; they belong to me".

Sure, this
Modern girl is civilized, she does
Confess democratically! Oh! She
Is a liberated woman! How could
She not charge her own bride price?
A City girl reads pragmatism; and
She tells it all loudly. Yes, marriage
And shame, two words that have lost
Meanings in the city language.

I can’t afford,
And I can’t withstand it. The fisherman
Has a sister. She is lively, hardworking,
Athletic and natural. I’ll get her betrothed
To my searching heart. Then, I’ll marry her.
She knows no dues from me.
Her need is the good fire. She lights
To cook, to warm the grandmother in the
Morning hours as children fight over
The remaining contents of the cooking pot.
No, she doesn’t light to burn her man’s clothes.
No imported perfume appeals to her,
No fashion from New York has
Touched her loins. Nature’s clock
Envelops her all. She is natural
And therefore,
In the most superlative aesthetic criterion,
The embodiment of Beauty itself.
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<a name="#d2">DREAM</a>

Under a moist blanket, I
dream of
an acqua-clear sky
bracing in serenity
and dotted with bright
bristling stars,
releasing the dove
from the claws of Lucifer
and the morning breeze
adding to the cool
of a dinning table
laid with green, juicy
as sweetly
into my sleeping ears
the flapping leaves
strike a matching
cord with the birds
sweetly singing
in the nature’s innocence,
to the awaited arrival of
eastern rays.

The cock crows, I
drag my ascetic body
with shrunken bowel
and with my palms, I
support my feverish knees
to let the pupils emerge
from sockets
hidden in the naked

Through the window
with no shutter, I
painstakingly look
through the thick fog
and see not in the far distance
golden domes,
balconies and
brown shining tables
and jugs
of milk and honey
hidden in the
of blood stained leaves.

I am transfixed
in a wishful mood
with my heart
carrying a desire
to continue
in a dream,
but sweeter
than the reality
of the naked eyes,
bitter, a reality
for which
none of the ordinary mortals
can pray
except a saint
none wants to imitate.
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<a name="#d3">ON MY DEATH-BED</a>

The moon is full,
Young boys roam the whole village,
Young girls stealthily walk out of their homes.
In the arena,
They dance,
They laugh,
They rejoice,
They tease,
They curse,
Their mood is all pleasure.

The tune is thrilling
It is the latest song.
My age-mate’s aunt composed it,
When she was at Rhino Camp
To harvest the simsim of the season
And return home with a bundle of some meat,
The smoked meat
The hunters among the Madi tribesmen had sold her.
Who say they are men who fear to handle a hoe
Yet brave enough to challenge a buffalo to a duel;
And so provide my aunt with a theme
The marrow of a new song.

But after one long dry season,
And after one long rainy season,
My age-mate and I built our huts.
The two stand within a mouth’s shout.
My age-mate, nursing a broken arm
I, nursing a broken leg.

Here we are
On a strange land
Ignorant of what sacrifice to offer
Where the spirits of the wild remain untamed

Now lonely,
I lie.

Sadly I remember that memorable night,
The night of that market-day
When shortly before mid-night the owl had cried
And the dwellers of the refugee camp raised eyebrows;
A premonition!
So shortly after three days and nights
My age-mate left his name.

Here I am,
Unable to dance;
Unable to hear the latest composition.
I feel dejected,
Far away I hear a sobbing voice.
I can orchestrate it,
It is the rising tune of a sad heart
It is the heart that gave me my first taste of milk.

The skies are dark,
The heavens are receding,
Too far to answer my cries.
My contemplations are barren,
My meditations are vain.
Am I defeated?
No, what a curse to imagine

Under this sun,
The African sun,
A vendetta is inaugurated.
At the pleasure of my enemies,
In the shade of the central mango tree,
They sit relaxed.
About us they speak sadism:
They gossip
They laugh
They sing.

My enemies propound skepticism;
They preach cynicism.
But I remain lonely
Yet thinking of Mount Iti*
Of the leopard skin
Of the lion’s extracted claws,
As a teenager I brought home.

Really when will it end?
This ordeal?
Already amongst them,
The cowards have begun dying.
They also cry,
"Let it end
It is too protracted".

This time,
When the wet season grass has grown
Blocking the route to the Christian mission
And the enemies turn to their dead ancestors,
We hope to get our place again
To cry in joy,
And laugh under the moonlight,
As the crocodile shades its last tears.

* A Small Mountain in the poet’s home village. It is located in the northwestern region of Uganda.
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<a name="#d4">THE TIME'S ORCHARD. *</a>

My orchard is a forest
With thorny trees
Trees without leaves
Trees without shades
Their naked branches stretched
Stiffly pointing to my eyes
Like accusing fingers.
My cereal farms are but bushes
Infested by scorpions and snakes
While the granaries stand yawning.
But is this really my orchard?
How can I tell when
I know not who sets the schedule of life?
Yes, Time's orchard is cruel.
*This poem, which was to be one in a series under a title then not suggested, was co-authored with my late dear brother Muddathir Ajotia Nasseem who died shortly after. Hence I have left it as originally co-written.
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<a name="#d5">BEYOND CHAOS</a>

When sudden silence prevails
For an hour or so, or is it
Just for a second or two,
No one can tell for sure the duration.

When suddenly darkness
Submerges all existents
And the cosmos is saturated
With tense, mournful mood,
The miserable humans
Ignore the futility of
Catching up with Time,
That elusive creature
Escaping the terrestrial perimeters.

When the spatial order
Can no longer accommodate
The individuality of any existent
Thus willfully or so
Divesting the cosmic reality
Of the holistic,
There is the risk of suicide
Beckoned by open possibility.

With no translucent membrane
Between the human subject
And the human action,
What person can separate
Its existence from the events
Of this benign universe?

Beyond the dark horizon,
Only one existent
Seems to endure:
The infinitesimal self.
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Every morning we wake up,
Between us and freedom,
The distance grows longer and longer.
Every evening after sunset
As we retire into our houses
To forcefully study the architecture
Of our leaking roofs,
The gulf between joy and us
Grows more expansive than the ocean.
The huge rock of the dead capital
Rests on us, crushing us like vermin.
The fiery lava of domination
Erupts and over-flows from the glass mountains
To destroy our livelihood, our persons.

The renegade clansmen go out
Hunting in cahoots with the alien hunters.
Who makes their arrows, bows and spears?
With their sharp, shining spears held at the ready,
And with their ice-cold hearts confronting us,
Our own hoes, plough shares, sickles
All are sharpened into objects of death
To silence us eternally as we writhe in hunger.
And our women and orphans alike,
All helpless subjects in vassal chiefdom,
Are forced to pay the tribute of blood
On the rocky path to recover the lost freedom.
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<a name="#d7">EPISTLE TO THE ROGUE KING</a>

A father that never was,
Cannot be.
What is,
But what is not,
Is not;
And can only be not.

Poor rogue King
Brought up in a strange kraal,
Don’t curse Heraclitus,
The ancient Greek knows you not;
So, never attempt to buy a father.
For a father that never was,
Was not.
And so shall remain not,
Cannot ever be.

Poor rogue King,
Look up!
See the dirty soot!
Is this your star?
Pack your stolen spears,
Your long smoking pipe
Is stinking.
Throw it away.
Pick your gourd,
And drink your last rotten milk,
The sons of men have arrived.
Farewell to you,
The uncrowned rogue king.
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<a name="#d8">THE DRY UDDER</a>

Gone are the times when the clouds gathered.
Now there are neither snoring sheep nor bleating goats.
Together with the skies, which have never overcast,
They are the hallmarks of our times.
Forced into labour harder than a rock,
From her breasts, some red, sticky sweat drips;
The maiden girl knows not where to turn.
And the young man cannot carry the hoe any longer;
The tool of his nourishment has grown too heavy.
On his knees, he falls like some dry leaf;
The hard gravel lacerates the week knees.
His spirit, his pride waned long ago.
In submission, the young man opens both palms;
The palms, that too long, have not been licked.
The tongue is dump, deadened to any taste,
For nothing remains, but the bitter fluffy saplings.
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<a name="#d9">ARISE !</a>

Young men wake up!
The names you hear sound new
But the song is the same old one
Never mind the new name of baptism
Never mind the new ritual of confirmation
What strangers ever teach
You hunting and fishing
As they salivate like hyenas
At the mention of meat and the sight of a river.

Young men wake up!
Come out of the stupor
Take up your spears
Shake off the blankets
For what are you coiled under the blanket?
Do you hide from your duty?
Recall the epic victories of your ancestors
You will see victory
Naked at its face.

Young men wake up!
Come out of your slumber
Take up your shield
Don’t look back
Your mothers sing for you
So you may be impelled
Further against the intruder
Hurry to the frontier
Stand firm on the blessed rock.

Young men wake up!
Don’t milk the cow
Your sisters sing for you
So you may be imbued with courage
Put on your hunting sandals
The thorns have no eyes
Walk fast to the escarpment
The dew is not hot
The cold shall harden you.

Young men wake up!
Take up the gourd
It is full of milk
Drink it while warm
The grandmother has blessed it
Don’t admire the bottle
In it is the trick of the invader
Brought by the brother from the apothecary
You will drink the soporific liquid.

Young men wake up!
Cast off cowardice
Hold fast to the apron of justice
It is your weapon
It will recover your land for you
Who says injustice ever reigns
Perhaps for a while
But from the loin of justice
Victory is extracted.

Young men wake up!
The land is gone
Who says the land is ours?
The barbed wire fence is for the robber
Our sweats are stolen
Who says our sweats are still ours?
When the robber does the costing, the pricing
Our visitors were given the baptism of theft.
Their eyes are too small for their bellies.

Young men wake up!
Go, go to die in honour
How sweet is victory
How permanent is right regained
Your name shall be blown forever
There is our history, and our language, our culture
In them your name shall be saved
And it shall blossom forever
And a generation shall arise to self-generate.
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<a name="#d10">GIVE ME YOUR TEARS</a>

Oh! The lodestar of my heart
I long to join you
Together with other faithful joiners
Those who did not jump over you
But faithfully carried you
When you could not carry yourself
Those who spoke for you
When you could not speak for yourself.

Oh! The lodestar of my heart
Give me humility from your heart
My eyes are lined with the kohl of sorrow
From your eyes I have taken the tears
Standing at your graveside
I feel yet too distant from you
Loudly I call
But who can hear and reply?

Oh! The lodestar of my heart
The idle waste away their day laughing
Cavorting about, they giggle, shout and jump
Their hearts are covered with dark soot
The indelible ink of rancour and hatred.
But who do they hate?
Against who is the rancour?
Nay, they wrong themselves.

Sure as fate,
You have completed your journey.

You have delivered yourself.

May you rest in the coolness of your final house.
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<a name="#d11">ALWAYS I SHALL REMEMBER</a>

I wish I knew
How it has transformed you
The earth
From where your body came
The earth
To which your body has returned
The earth
To which I long to have my body interred.

I wish I could
Imagine the beauty of your ethereal face
As I recall the days by-gone
When you were full of joie de vivre.
But how many of them know
What you mean to me
In life and in death?
Of it,
They have no knowledge.

Your sagacity, patience and forbearance,
Your resolution, bravery and faith,
They were the bountiful wealth.
On them we lived
And rightly, we remained imperturbable
But since you were moved

To your final house,
I have lost the night’s sleep,
Giving me all the heebie-jeebies.

The reliable hands of comfort,
The tender hands that
Reduced my torment,
That soothed me in
The hours of trial and tribulation.

Your hands,
I shall remember.
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<a name="#d12">A CURSE ON THE VULTURE’S HEAD</a>

curse on the vulture’s head,
In you the wizard draws solace and
The villain masks its wild eyes,
Born under the same star as a setter,
Fed on the bitter seeds of acrimony,
You blow the hot red pepper into our eyes.

A curse on the vulture’s head,
You have contaminated the butcher’s shop
With the carcass of unknown anatomy.
The conquistador of the yester-century returns
Imposing on us a pair of unfitting tinted spectacles,
We are told to believe a shyster’s story.

A curse on the vulture’s head,
You conceived your evil chemistry
In a dark night, in a dark alley.
Who can prostrate before your poor soul?
A dweller in the casino and the brothel,
Only the gambler shall prostrate.

A curse on the vulture’s head,
Your bier shall be of a pig’s bone
Carried by the clients of the guillotine
It shall be thrown deep, deep, far down
Into the fathomless furnace
Of history’s rude damnation.
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<a name="#d13">THE SPEAR OF YOUR FAITH</a>

They saw you
Imbued with that courage.

They saw you
Assertive of your rights.

They saw you
Undaunted by their material loot.

They saw you
Taming their capricious horses.

They saw you
A lady in whom was my unyielding helper.

They saw you
For what you humbly accepted.

With the thrust of the spear of your faith
I feel safe enough for another confrontation.
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<a name="#d14">MY CHOICE

It was not by choice
Mother bore me a boy.
But it is by choice
I must honour the call.
This is my task;
A young man must die
Not in the warmth of the bed
But in the biting cold
Outside the village fence
And beyond the bivouac.
There lies the honour
Of the family and
Of our generation.
There lies the birth-place
Of the nation.
So I go forth;
Good-bye mother,
Good-bye sister.
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<a name="#d15">CERTAIN OF THE CERTAIN</a>

Barely for three decades, did you live
Not quite near the fountain of your return
Everyday the sun rose and set, you thanked
Him, the most observant Observer above us all.
As the twilight of the last millennium drew nigh,
As if certain of the certain destination,
You intensified the hard work
Finally to me, your debtor, you gave respite,
Thus redeeming my difficulties.
In glory and nobility, you have superseded them,
Those sitting on their throne under a silken cupola,
Everyday said they had passed the tests of time.
Your humility and grace made their necks
But a drooping plant, ready to dry.
Your magnanimity will ever
Enjoy some legendary endurance and
Forever shall my temporary house be
Honoured by your light, radiance and comeliness.
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<a name="#d16">NEITHER MIGHT NOR POWER</a>

There is neither might nor power,
But that that moves the cosmos,
In Him that lives for ever,
Providing motion to the celestial bodies,
For ever, never perishes,
Above generation and corruption.

In Him the Most Sufficient and Secure,
I entrust the sufficiency of my security
In Him the Most Efficient and Secure,
I entrust the efficiency of my security.
In whom else could I confide?
If not in Him, the Uncaused Cause?

For, after your departure,
It lay all manifest.
Shamelessly they ridiculed and mocked
The one lying motionless and speechless.
Then in whom do I find solace?
If not the Originator of the ultimate solace?

To Him,
Who by His Sovereignty
Chose to bring you forth;

To Him,
Who by His Sovereignty
Chose to take you back;

I surrender.
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<a name="#d17">A MATTER OF LOYALTY OR OF LOVE</a>

It pleases to see this booty and I love it,
But let my love for Him be greater
Than the love for the worldly glamour.
Indeed for our nourishment,
Has He made it permissible
To have love for His worldly bounties.
In the one hand, keep it,
The material world of sweet honey
And the shining gravels
Of gold and diamond.
How many gold and silver coins
Have we kept in our pockets?
And the coins for both
Our necessary consumption
And the obligatory alms giving,
So is it that in the mind, we can keep
The perishable material and
The perishable non-material.
But in the heart is the special,
The exceptional.
It is one, and its
Wonderful design accommodates
Naught, but only the wonderful
Of all the wonderful, His Treasure.
Smuggle into it the transient glamour,
The sandy heart gets wasted
On the sandy ground.
Only when the love of Him
Enters this sandy heart,
Does the heart get illuminated
To become an illuminator.
Hence to the mind,
As to the hand and the pocket,
Inside it, a matter of loyalty
And a matter of love, both
Do subsist, and in co-existence
Peacefully, they abide
In their single safe abode.
But for the heart,
One and only one as it is,
Only for the imperishable,
Is its reservation,
And it will transcend
Its sandy attribute.
Impelled by the matter of love,
The illuminated heart
Does carry its bearer
Safely to the Only One truth.
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<a name="#d18">TO THE FOUNTAIN</a>

Then came the day, the appointed day
You ceased seeing that you detested
Your patience protected you from the loathsome
Many a times, didn’t you remain hidden
As the gossipers’ eyes vied to have a sight of you
Many a times, didn’t you keep silent
As you preferred eloquent silence to vulgar speech
Many a times, didn’t you endure pain, smiling
As your heart confronted the furnace of persecution.
Confronted by enumerate vicissitudes
Your breast expanded to embrace misfortune
Patiently you deterred the abhorrent in life
Though at times, humanly your heart felt distress
But crowning it all, your despair transformed into hope.
For your expeditious turn to reprieve,
You steered clear onto the Fountain of existence.
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<a name="#d19">THE RIVER OF SELF-DELUSION</a>

After you, they have sharpened their blades
And raised its red edge against my neck.
They have wetted the keen edge of the sword
And raising it, shining in my face,
They have painted it red, a butcher’s knife
With intrigue, they have built a fence
Around my hamlet and treacherously electrified it.
Coquettishly, with sugar-coated smiles,
They have sought to allure me.
But by my loneliness in the midst of
The still night, the loud silence reminds me.
Now I recall it, and call my defence;
Of course not the sword they wield,
Not the wealth they have amassed.
But the impeccable sublime philosophy
I imbibed from the magnum corpus of the erudite.
What recompense is there for them,
The men who mortgage the honour of their persons?
What recompense is there for them,
The women who mortgage the honour of their persons?
They have gambled their faces and
Against the passing clouds staked their faces.
What recompense is there for them,
The men for whom humility is disgrace?
What recompense is there for them,
The women for whom humility is disgrace?
Along the river of self-delusion,
The currents of fraud carry them far
Into the muddy delta of pride and wantonness.
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<a name="#d20">THE PEARL OF MY HEART</a>

Oh! The Pearl of my heart,
The wisdom and marvel of your exhortation,
All are interred with your lovely body.
Witnessing the bitter truth after you,
My sullen eyes now see tongues wagging.

Sitting with my head firmly in cupped hands,
And indifferent to the ruddy glow in the sky,
At the periphery of the desolate kraal,
I see the hitherto disguised crabby unearthed,
No longer is their skulking unbeknown to me.

Without a melody worth an orchestra,
The revelers have concocted a concerto.
Dancing half-naked on the ruined esplanade,
They assassinate all virtues, and without compunction
They trample and spit on the impecunious.

After you, the cocks ceased crowing,
And the nights receded momentarily.
The piercing rays of the morning sun caught them,
Absolutely in some arcane with their claws all red,
And their unsheathed swords all burning.

The white teeth have all turned yellow.
What do I witness after you?
The dreaded hydra of betrayal,
As the torrents of hot, salty tears well up my eyes,
I shall continue ruminating over your final journey.
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<a name="#d21">THE SARCASM OF THE STRUMPET</a>

Haughty, they have remained
Exuding megalomania of the supercilious,
As ignoramuses, they have committed sins
And so have remained uncensored.
By insolence towards the one peerless,
They abandoned your bier and did spite me.
Nay, it was a curse against their souls.
Their ignorance got their better sensitivity
They surpassed the limits to conquer the mundane.
Their expectation drove them away,
Far away from the Eternal Grace, they drifted
Down the hot river into the abyss of human loss
Realizing not they will be judged by His Justice
Yes, the absolute justice for us all!
But we have a pool of consolation to swim in
As we know, if there be chastisement
That shall be a matter of His Absolute Justice.
Meanwhile may my good expectations come to fruition
As I follow you, to inevitably
Join you in the pool of eternal prosperity.
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By your peaceful departure
You have truly awakened them
Those who were in slumber
You have restored the sense of hearing
At least for those with two open ears.

I have come by your last house
And recited it, that of fathomless wisdom
Thus enveloping the cosmic totality
Yet at my best, I have not witnessed it:
The rising and disappearing of the Canopus star.

As you had exhorted umpteen times
I have steered clear of the path of cupidity
And have held back from their dreamland
The men and women who sidestepped you
And elucidated their own skullduggery.

Evermore their field shall remain
Far different from the idyllic
Their minds deadened to rectitude
Never rueing their own scurrilous lyrics
They remain revellers in the ephemeral.
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<a name="#d23">I Dream of Fusillade</a>

I long to see where the sun-baked backs of the innocent were exposed to further whippings in cotton fields that built Liverpool and Manchester as down
the Mississippi River I sail on a boat aboard which a mother kidnapped from
the Gambia sings the words my brother from Mpili1 composed at the bloody banks of the Stanley Pool:2

You must be from my country
I see it by the tick
Of your soul around the eyelashes
and besides you dance when you are sad
you must be from my country

Gently the blue waters of the stream of peace flow into my inflated heart
and I presently fall asleep under the cool blue sky, brightly lit by the holy light transmitted by the disc of the innocent moon in monocle,
watching over the virtuous and the vicious of the night alike.

Then I dream of fusillade as some hot dark soot from a chimney that had paid
my ancestors in a currency of cancer envelops the oval office,
melting all the icicles that could have added to the counterfeit whitewash.

A meteorite falls on my head and I wake up to see two masked raiders,
one a serial executioner and another a coroner emerging
at the Vizier’s balcony, each holding lavender in the left hand,
the right hand holding a goblet full of icky gruel.

The Vizier laughs with white washed teeth,
watching the wild bull he has fed on opium
stamping its iron hoofs into the heart of the grand child of the robbed land owner;
his big belly commanding his addled mind, he ignores
the fusillade coming from the minds of sages and orders the ferocious fusillade.

Helped by a swam of Tartar mercenaries,
he fritters the looted fortune on clearing the fuchsia in Ibrahim’s cradle land,
and plants in its stead furze under which he chains his victims
before dragging them to bathe
where the scum has given the colourless primary liquid a detestable colour.

I then recall my vision of the Stanley Pool,
colonized by decomposing jetsam and
keeping afloat the necks whose prayers
the scabbard could neither hear nor answer.

I fall back
and request the mother
kidnapped from the Gambia to:

play me a lullaby
with three horns and a hundred thousand cattle-bells

Soon both of us are forced into a painful slumber
as heavy iron hammers fall on our heads;
our fractured ears could get only a faint echo of the last words
of Okibgo’s "Thunder can break":

Bring them out we say, bring them out
Faces and hands and feet,
The stories behind the myth, the plot
Which the ritual enacts.

Thunder can break – Earth, bind me fast –
Obduracy, the disease of elephants.

Before we could breathe the last of the putrid air around the scaffold, I
thought why should I prevent my grandmother telling the stories of the old,
prevent the grand old sage serving gruel of the millet in the granary of accumulated wisdom to her grandchildren as if I were a disciple of a lucky moron,
when the world should forgive the Professors at Oxford
for gate-crushing and teaching pseudo politico-genetics,
and call it: peace begotten by the idol of pigmentation?

The Great Osagyefo,
wherever you are, tell them,
tell them to leave me free to sing and dance on the Mississippi,
our ancestors cleared the weeds and the logs,
drained the silt and made the river navigable to their ships
that transported the cotton our great grand-aunts,
with only one song, elegy in their possession,
their babies strapped on their backs, sun-baked and whipped,
picked without a wage,
while our great grand-uncles who could hum only a few songs from
the womb of their authentic existence,
without eulogy, got buried in the gold and silver mines.

1. Mpili is a place in the Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville) where the poet Tchicaya U Tam’si was born.

2. The wide waters of the Congo River lying between Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

3. The words of Tchicaya U Tam’si in his poem "Viaticum"; Tchicaya U Tam’si, Selected Poems , Heinemann (AWS) 1970; translated from French by Gerald Moore.

4. Ibid.

5. Chistopher Okigbo, "Thunder can break" – one in the series of his poems under the general heading "Path of Thunder, Poems prophesying War" in the Labyrinths Heinemann (AWS) 1971.
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Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA

Part Five

Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Mon Aug 18, 2003 4:53 am

Part Five:

<a name="#e1">THE SURE JOURNEY</a>

O people of the Rabeki* chiefdom!
Hear, listen, and remember,
As you live, you must die;
And as you die, you lose the opportunity
For doing good or bad acts.
No events expected to occur will fail;
At the appointed time, each will unfold.
As you lie supine, meditate upon
The night, dark or clear.
Ponder upon starry heavens above,
Ever full of constellations;
And the gleaming stars that have guided
The humans from time immemorial
And the rains that keep the seas ever swelling,
And the lush, green vegetation that you eat and drink.
Surely, from the stars in the clear
Night sky, the mindful decipher glad tidings,
As from the events on the earth,
Undoubtedly they draw lessons.
We see men and women, they come and go;
They travel, never to return.
For what reason do they travel,
And never to look back?
Perhaps they like the destination!
And therefore on their own volition,
They remain to stay.
Or, have they simply entered into that
Whose duration overwhelms
Their terrestrial sojourn?
That which covers the full length
And breadth of their existence?
The early ones who have gone before us,
In them are our exemplary lessons.
At the railway station, only the departure
Terminal exists, no arrivals, no returnees.
As we see many people going towards it,
Strong and weak, big and small.
The names, in indelible ink, are entered
Into the eternal book of the by-gones.

*This is a fictitious Chiefdom even though the poem was provoked by a real situation.
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In a chair, red like blood,
The greenhorn sits.
Her heart cold, like ice,
Perusing through the witch-hunt files,
Her eyes are firmly set
Like those of a setter.
For weeks and weeks on,
Never jaded at all
Rather with enthusiasm
She removes the impedimenta
Along the path to the guillotine.
And the arrow of her own envy
Strikes, inflicting deep, red wounds
On the niggardly character of her heart.

As the sun sets on the hillock,
The small herds boys walk
Stealthily into the quiet homestead
Where one no longer hears cock-a-doodle-doo
They pull the thorny shrubs
And barricade themselves in the kraal.
The scribe at the guillotine
True to her reputation as a battleaxe
Invites her hoity-toity banker
To enjoy their sadistic hogwash
Around a slap-up dinner table,
As their skivvies sit with half-empty bellies,
Sharing the same room with the codger servant,
Feed by some open malodorous drains.
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The kraal, overgrown and desolate,
In it resides the lion and the lioness,
Or the leopard and the hyena,
All in turn as each dines at its own time.
In the poultry cage, comfortably
The fox celebrates the feast of the ides
As the surviving birds take flight
Far into the hostile expanse of wilderness
Desolate, the mother earth wastes away
Cursed by the felling of the ancestral shrine tree
In the middle of the now thorny compound,
Impetuously, the son of the gorgon sits,
Holding the undecorated calabash of abomination,
He drinks nectar turned sour by human blood.
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<a name="#e4">DEATH WITHOUT A SIGN</a>

After you,
I see men
Devoured by the darkness of the night

After you,
I see women
Devoured by the darkness of the night.

Like the hard iron
Eaten up by the soft earth,
They bow down
Their backs broken before old age
Their loot is too heavy.

Yet, as I wonder about
Lost in the thought of you
Who bandaged my wounded heart
What do I hear?
Not the lyrics of elegy.

"Where is she now?"
They ask:
Or not remembering

That when death does come
It bargains
Neither time,
Nor space.
Sitting on its own saddle,
Riding at its own speed,
It has its destination

So has it
Called you.
Among the by-gones
You are now counted one.

For those asking
"Where is she now?"
Theirs shall be
Death without a sign.
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<a name="#e5">THE CALABASH OF PAIN</a>

When we shall have finished
Drinking from the calabash of pain,
We shall remember our heroes,
The fishermen on the Nile who
Refusing to exchange their canoes
For the stinking tobacco,
Were driven away from
The banks of the Nile by strange herdsmen,
Who roam about the lands with stolen cattle.
Their canoes broken and burnt into ashes
To be dissolved into the running waters of the Nile,
And like dangerous lunatics, our heroes
Were caged by the lunatic conquerors
At the backs of the black lorries of death.

But their backbones remained intact,
Their limbs unfractured, and their spirits
Hovering above the ordinary terrestrial courage.
Their faith remained strong that they
Shall one day return to the Nile
And freely peddle their canoes.
By that time none of them shall
Drink again from the calabash of pain.

Where did the strange herdsmen come from?
Through Nakivale, across the Kitona River,
Sniffing their stinking tobacco
Mixed with cow dung and urine,
Then came stealthily, with treachery
And circumvented the seven hills
And rested for a while
In Kintu’s desolate palace in the jungles of Luwero.
Intoxicated with the stench of the strangers’ tobacco,
Kintu’s grandchildren forgot
The ancestral oath of the land
And took a wrong turn.
Thus came the national strategy,
Kintu’s family sold the whole country
To the foreign herdsmen.

Sucking the blood of their hosts, like the HIV,
That entered Kintu’s kingdom
From the direction of the sun-set,
The strangers feast on their hosts
Only to kill.
Hence unabated, their reign has come
To pass as an ordeal of grabbing,
Even snatching a morsel of bread
From the mouth of orphans.

But the fishermen of the Nile, despising
The filthy tobacco, can still
Remember the oath and share
Equally a single pea-nut picked
From the ground by one of them.
Upon this oath, of shared fate, rests the
Hope of ending the reign
Of the tobacco sniffers,
The strange herdsmen.
Henceforth none of the bonafide countrymen
And countrywomen shall ever
Again drink from the calabash of pain.

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<a name="#e6">THE DRUMS OF INSOLENCE.</a>

Far from the foot of the mountains,
A small round hut stands isolated.
With the white ochre fading out,
Only the red ochre stands noticeable.
The sheathed sword is firmly tied to the roof,
And the spear with a broken handle besides it,
And the bow, with its string severally severed, and
Tied in several knots, is hardly recognizable.
A bundle of arrows, firmly tied together
In a quiver are covered in a thick layer of soot.

The old man, seemingly lost in deep thought
Sits outside the desolate hut and looks far
Beyond the rugged fence; seeing the burnt forest,
He recalls and hums the tune of the good past,
The golden days of his lush green youth,
When along the path to the now dried stream
He could set traps for the giant sable antelopes.
Those were the days when the price of meat
Was calculated by the sweat dripping from the hunter’s forelock
Not by the sounds of the invisible drums of insolence.
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<a name="#e7">THE DRUMS OF PAIN</a>

Over the frontier villages,
The sun sets prematurely.
The homesteads are enveloped in darkness,
Nothing stands up to obvious visibility,
Mothers are unable to see the frightened faces
Of their dear cuddled ones.
Atop the over-looking hills,
The knight of the cattle rustlers
Mounts fire-vomiting iron-tunnels.
And across the red boiling rivers,
Drums of strange unrhythmic sounds are heard
The unorchestratable musical accompaniment
Drowns any possible life accommodation.
No where is the twilight near, and the night
Extends its duration as volleys
Of solid fire from afar rain down.
Exploding over the tormented homesteads,
Burning debris of the iron-charcoal
Spread wide, all over the village
And burning all objects that stand
Or sit on their way.

Loud singing of sad songs by the women folk
Respond to the distant drums,
Drums whose sounds jolt no young
Boys and tease no young girls
Into the youthful heartily excitement.
They are not the drums of the festive dry-season fiesta;
They are the drums that blur the moonlight.
They are the drums that exaggerate night darkness
They are the drums that drown the screams of the tortured.
They are the drums that cast dark clouds over the villages
They are the drums of the red plague,
Yes, they are the drums of pain.
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<a name="#e8">THE DRUMS OF PREMONITION</a>

When you hear the throbbing of the drums
And the moon is down beneath the sea
And the darkness of the night envelops the village
You know the owls are up and the gorgon is about.

When you hear the throbbing of the drums
And the season is not for the lovers of the soppy dance
And the hunters have their weapons up in the roof
You know the frogs and the toads have gone silent.

When you hear the throbbing of the drums
And the fields are yet being tilled for sowing the seeds
And the women have not prepared the harvest baskets
You know the squall of the babies is at their throats.

When you hear the throbbing of the drums
And there is no telling of fairly tales around the hearth
And the children have to sleep early like chickens
You know the cobra and the viper are close to the kraal.
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<a name="#e9">THE CALABASH OF SORROW</a>

Gently but imbued with courage,
We step out on the unbeaten path,
On the way to the forests to join them
Those with bruised shoulders, their shirts worn out.
The cold and dewy ground sends upwards
Through our shins to rest in our hearts
Cold sensations of peace,
Our bare backs, brazing the biting cold breeze.
We are sure, using the indelible red ink
To register our names in the book
Of the immortality of patriotism
So that for ever our downtrodden
Cease drinking the bitter porridge
From the calabash of sorrow.
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<a name="#e10">THE DRUMS OF PERDITION.</a>

On that day, the sun set at mid-day
And the drums of perdition sounded loud.
It was the beginning of the cessation of the rains.
Then incognito, the son of the hyena arrived.
Ascending the throne, he threw the sacred stool
Deep, deep down into the pit latrine.
Forcing his way into the inner chamber of the oracle,
He was accompanied by chameleons walking on two legs,
Coming from far off lands, adept at mischief,
Land in which abound village-never-do-wells,
Often walking hand-in-hand with the shameless women,
The stray and wayward smoking in the presence of fathers-in-law.
They set fire on the once green mountains,
Thus denying the goats their land of merry-making.
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<a name="#e11">THE DRUMS OF RESOLUTION</a>

The drums have sounded
The mothers gather in a corner
They cuddle their babies
And tell the sad, old stories.

The drums have sounded
The fathers sit under the granaries
Surveying the arrows, bows, spears and shields,
They recount the braves of the old.

The drums have sounded
On their way home from the wells
Escorted by their young brothers,
The girls hum the praise songs just learnt.

The drums have sounded
The young men assemble in the arena
But there is no merry-making,
They re-collect the old espirit de corps*.

In chorus, they sing:

Who ever thinks a single
Thumb can kill a louse?
Who ever thinks a single
Hand can wash one’s back?
Only one who dies a miser’s death.
*In the original posting there was some inadvertent error; "espirit de corps" was erroneously typed as "spirit de corps". This correction has been made on Heinzs' drawing my attention to the same. I am grateful to him.
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<a name="#e12">THE DRUMS OF COURAGE</a>

Chameleons gate crushed and sat defiantly
In the reserved cool shade of the principal granaries
And soon forcefully distorted our architectures.
It was then that large homesteads ceased to exist.
Only isolated, yet undecorated huts survived.
The once proud well-fed inhabitants were held captive,
Herded like cattle into a moving red iron box
To be forcefully settled on the rocky lands,
Once a slaughter ground for the defeated human sellers.
Then the morning anthem of the girls to and from the streams
And the evening anthem of the adolescents from the market
Gave way to the sad, but courageous tunes,
Backed by the irresistible beat of the drums of courage,
Beckoning the youth to the unburnt forested mountains.
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<a name="#e13">THE CALABASH OF DEATH</a>

From the kraal of the covetous chief,
Treacherous sons crossed
The forbidden line to negotiate with the bed bugs.

Little did they visualize the end of the thorny avenue,
Knowing not the objective of their talks;
For the bed bugs had determined what not to give and what to take.

Not long before the short rains stopped, the traitors faltered.
As the bed bugs bailed for their jugular veins
And sought to extend the barbed fence.

The kraal of the covetous constricted instantly,
And the oranges in the courtyard tasted bitter,
The drinking water in the master pot turned sour.

For then, the chief and the sons had to borrow
What to drink from the conquerors,
It was some gruel of unknown stuff

Unable to retreat or advance, dejected as they were,
The chief and the sons drank their last
From the undecorated calabash of death.
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<a name="#e14">THE CALABASH OF TWINS</a>

Come forth my brother.
As I long to see your shadow
Measuring its length with mine,
My heart grows heavy
And my vision gets blurred.
I dream of you scratching my back,
But as I wake up from slumber,
My mind grows dizzy.
Lonely, I walk along a dark path
And my shield, light and porous
Grows heavier and difficult to carry,
The motion of my spear inaccurately veers.

Come forth my brother.
It may be tiny, yet not a single finger
Succeeds to kill a louse.
However tall and strong,
No man grows into a legendary warrior
On millet grown by a single hand.
Not even the greedy extracts honey
Single handedly from the beehive.
Only by the two pairs of hands
Can the sweet honey flow
Incessantly for the sacredness of the land,
So we may drink from the calabash of twins.
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<a name="#e15">THE CALABASH OF THEFT</a>

What good news of life
Uproots you from your land,
The blessed ancestral land?
Is it not the land, this earth
Into which shall be our internment?
It is by thirst for water
Gushing out from the earth
And hunger for that beautifully
Grows out of the good earth
That the human existence,
Without negation is defined.
What human existence is
Defined in abstraction from land?
What blessing is there in hunger?
Only the well-fed over-seer
Sees in the misery of the wretched
The virtue of the deflated bellies.
For the sake of our definition,
Lest hunger spreads in the land,
The well-fed over-seer must be liquidated
As he drinks from the calabash of theft.
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On the desecrated ancestral hill
Stands the stone-walled house.
The wall, white washed from the outside,
The inside is painted threateningly red.
In the far corner, barely visible,
Sits a paid chief, dressed in a stranger’s attire.
Growling menacingly at the sons of the land,
His spear-bearers hold long, thick whips
At the ready, their eyes red, like blood.
Their colleagues carrying sticks of fire,
Stand in a semi-circle, a horde of wounded buffaloes.
They shout orders, or are they insults at men,
Men with bare, yet bleeding backs,
Forced to dig the much revered, forbidden sacred shrines.
With their hungry, thirsty babies
Firmly but miserably strapped at their backs,
The women carry firewood to the undecorated palace,
As their sons and daughters water the flower garden.
What shall be their reward? What wage?
Will they ever pass any fluid down their throats?
With the wells filled up with debris
And the decomposing corpses of the unknown,
The waters have acquired a yellow colouration,
The foul stench of the departing humans
Who haven’t been given farewell
Comes out of the once well protected well,
The hallmark of the homestead
Ever since the would-have-been last
Funeral rites of the last known chief.
Since then, the hands that should have dug
The grave of the Chief, son of the known man,
Have all grown weak, paralyzed by vicissitudes.
So what calabash of bitterness
Can weak, orphaned hands hold?
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<a name="#e17">THE CALABASH OF TEARS</a>

Survive the bitter reign of the hyenas
So that you shall win freedom for the motherland,
Once the country of limitless joys
Now turned into a country of infinite sorrows;
Once a land of green fields and vegetation,
Now converted into a desolate graveyard.

Shall we stop singing the anthem of freedom?
The once free land is no more, strange hyenas reign about.
The land of hitherto free peasants has changed
Littered countrywide are unwelcome contrasts
A land of imported rulers and indigenous slaves
So has the face of the pearl been deformed.

Who minds the pain of birth?
Neither the child bearing nor the barren.
Who minds getting jailed for the dignity of the people?
Both the sons and the daughters scramble for the same honour.
Who minds getting exiled to win back freedom?
After all great names are monographed in exile books.

Herein is the great and true love for the country.
Longing to pass through the tunnel of the masses,
Aspiring to witness the victory of the united masses,
Like the child bearing, enduring the pangs of the new arrival,
We long for the re-hosting of the freedom flag
Even though, painfully the folks drink from the calabash of tears.
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<a name="#e18">THE CALABASH OF COURAGE</a>

We ascended into the heights
With anger running through our veins.
We asked for courage and wisdom
To defeat the tyranny of exploitation.

We resolved to continuously tread
The path of self-confidence
Never to doubt the ancestral authenticity
We resolved to drink from the calabash of courage.

We saw the same calabash in
Which the grandmothers served the
Sweet porridge of courage
From which the grandfathers drank.

If we drink from the same calabash
We shall not live to rue over it
When it shall have burnt helplessly
In the self-made inferno of cowardice.
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<a name="#e19">THE DRUMS OF RE-BIRTH</a>

Our golden jewels have grown wings,
The silver ornaments have grown legs,
Far away to strange lands,
The light have been blown,
The heavy have been struck by lightening,
The thunder of the alien marauders,
Arriving untamed has been unleashed on our heads.
Poor mothers, with half-empty baskets,
Silently walk from the market.
Agitated, the hunters blow their horns,
So that we should wake them,
And remind those still in slumber.
Frantically, we return the hoes,
Hanging them on top of the walls,
And moved by the moveable,
We change our attire,
Putting on the fatigue of death.
And we retrieve earnestly the spears from the roof.
For already a new song is being orchestrated,
So we dance in step to
The beats of the drums of re-birth.
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<a name="#e20">THE DRUMS OF RETURN</a>

Smoothly and rhythmically,
The distant drums fill the air
With the sweet expectation of a historic return.

The cool breeze of the dawn blows on my chest, and
My ears opening to the throbbing sounds of the distant drums,
Let into my head the air of elation.

I, longing to plunge into the cool waters
Of the ancestral-stream,
Follow the path through the forest.

Now coming back to life,
The greenness of the forest blossoms again.
And I see dew glittering real gold.

Far ahead, I see a clear sky,
The clouds casting friendly a shadow
Over the resurrected village of the old.

I sing softly, believing that poor mother hears it.
Yes, she will stop crying as the path of struggle
Against slavery was the noble choice.

What life is better, if not the struggle
Of my people to end oppression
And break free of the unholy chains?

What life is better, if not the struggle
Of my people to end the human-eat-human culture
And once again end the sugar-coated robbery?

What journey is better
If not that that traces the thorn less path
Returning us to the throbbing of the ancestral drums?
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<a name="#e21">THE DRUMS OF RECEPTION</a>

Your pregnant promise has delivered.
In my open arms, and on my warm laps,
Here lies the offspring of your immortal words.
Your clanswomen trill ululations for you.
So come, raising your head high,
A warm embrace awaits your broad chest.
We have rehearsed the sweet songs,
Songs of victory, awaiting your reception.
Come; bring to your clan the spear of victory
That you snatched from the intruders.
Come; bring to your clan the arrow of victory
That you seized from the cowardly thieves.
Come; bring to your clan the shield of victory
That you pierced to defeat the enemy.
See the hurricane; it is due to the vigour
Of your clanswomen, the feet faithfully
Responding to the drum beats for you,
The irresistible beats of the drums of reception.
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<a name="#e22">THE CALABASH OF FREEDOM</a>

Happily, they march into the fields
Joyfully, they exit their homesteads
Holding aloft the ancestral gourd
Full of the bitter honey of revolution.

Getting on to the bank of the Nile
They meet the red floods and ask
Have the Nile perch been massacred too?
They see headless bodies floating.

With the temerity of patriots
They swim across the red Nile
Initiating themselves into the bitter dialectics,
They embrace the welcome death for freedom.

Beyond the slippery bank of the red river
They stealthily enter into the bamboo forest and find
Covering himself with a wolf’s skin,
The son of the traitor shouts at them.

On whose head does the antelope’s curse land
Not the one who gazes at it
But he whose mouth opens loudly
Inevitably, they release their arrows.

Soon, the waters of the Nile
Flowing further north, turn blue
The aquatic life returns to blossom
The old bamboo forest burns, giving way to the new.

Happily, they march back from the fields
Joyfully, they enter the homesteads
Holding aloft the calabash of freedom
Full of the sweet honey of freedom.
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To Him from under whose Throne
A gentle wind blows,
I pray for the enlargement of your last house.
May you be among them, the luckiest
Hearing the melodious tune,
The well orchestrated the hearers long to hear.
Yet that melody the hearers have not heard,
The tune of the flapping leaves,
The evergreen leaves of the heavenly trees,
The tune of the clanking of the heavenly door shutters.
On that day, what shall be in store for them?
In shackles shall be our tormentors,
The remorseless conquerors of the earth.
On that day, what shall be their profits?
Their legs shall be fettered.
On that day, may you by his grace
Appear on the balcony of the heavenly abode.
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<a name="#e24">I Dream of a Library</a>

Do I see myself sitting cross-legged,
reading the authentic biography of Harun ar-Rashid?1


I dream of a library,
a house, its inside forested with wisdom,
in which living heads resided
and helped rehabilitate Plato and Aristotle
before Amerigo Vespuci re-wrote part of Christopher Columbus’ false story,
thus invigorating the grand curse
that has since descended on and enveloped humanity.

Had sleep not imprisoned my conscience only for a few hours,
letting it free at the dazzling appearance of day light,
I would have enjoyed the sweet dream for ever.

But rebellion is part of my living self,
so consciousness broke loose
and had me taken away from the delicious dinner
of my Mesopotamian dream.

I have hated the night for its retreat in face of the days’ rays, thus
allowing the sun to over-take my sweet sub-conscious
as my eyes open to witness not the holy fire of the Sinai Mountain Peak
but the baneful Wild Bush fire
whose flicker was born out of the rough rubbing of abomination
in the Wild West Bush and carried across the accursed ocean,
across the raped continent,
by the Wild Bush Wind,
to finally smoulder on the roof of the eastern castle of the Children of Abbas.2

Who can put out the fire, when
the brigades of fire fighters fill their vehicles with some stolen petrol?

The stiff neck of the arsonist carries a dead head
yet his body carries hands that fan the flame of the unholy fire
presently seeking to burn into ashes
the tree of human culture.

How can he ever see the dirty sore on his heart
when his head is dead
and he cannot copy the name of Ibn Khaldun3
even when it is already spelt for him?

When I finally hear the chorus:

Thank the son of the anonymous farmer
for showing pity on them
who follow a fat pig
into destroying his potato crops

I quickly withdraw into the burnt walls of Harun ar-Rashid’s library whence
shamelessly the Oxford lawyer, to assist in the grand millennium burglary,
plagiarized a history already well recorded in golden choreography.

1A prominent ruler who turned Baghdad into a major centre of classical learning.
2Descendants of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Uncle Abbas.
3A Berber scholar from Tunisia. He is believed to have originated the academic disciplines of the Philosophy of History and Sociology well before Hegel and Augustine Comte were born.
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Forever Silent Friend
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2002 12:01 am
Location: ARUA - UGANDA

Part Six

Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Tue Aug 19, 2003 9:52 am

<a name="#6">Part Six:</a>


I stopped, then noticed some graves
Inside the wooded park of Baghdad.
I could not steal their soft dreams
And so prostrate, I fell on the sacred earth,
Solemnly kissing the landmark
Footprints in the land of Ur Chaldea
From whence the blessed fountain of
The triology set off on the holy journey
To the seat of the sublime communication.
As I raised my wet eyes from the ground,
I saw a lunatic policeman perched above
The horns of ancient civilization,
The gentle Tigris and Euphrates.
He was spitting on the sacred
Walls of the ancient Babylonia.
Was he oblivious to them,
The inhabitants inside the walled fence?
Watching up in the sky, the stars
Partly hidden from my wet eyes
By the ritually impure wings
Of the unlicensed police eagle,
I saw no signs of direction.
What could be my decision?
When the living dead, without vendetta
Had my cardiac arteries
Deluged with sorrow, even when
They opened no new wounds.
I, in glum solitude, soliloquize.
In frenzy, I cursed him,
The Incendiary Policeman to be drowned
In the cauldron of his own dementia.
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<a name="#f2">AN EPILOGUE TO 1945</a>

At first I thought there was a burning hole created by
A wayward meteorite of a broken celestial glass, gaping in
The inviolable ambit of the remote blue sky and a rude
Sacrilegious flying dragon obeying the unfamiliar
Law of levitation to prowl in the sacred castle of the spirits.

I had neither seen the chequered calendar, nor could I
Have read and understood the enigmatic verse of the diary
Written in some palindrome as my simple peasant mind had hardly
Approached any near the veranda of the bourgeois library
To comprehend the undulating era of napalm and the Orange Agent.

An expatriate teacher wearing a simple beautiful attire of sari
Had just introduced me to the gorgeous geography of China and Vietnam.
But the farthest my eyes traveled was the model of a globe delicately
Balanced in the farthest corner of the geography laboratory constructed
With the fund generously donated by the Rockefeller Katanga Concern.

My mind was tilted to disbelief as I had just completed reading
The little red book of Chairman Mao, had it not been for Lin Piao’s
Treachery to burn it into colourless ashes over the historical Yellow River, even though
Fortunately for me 1952 was only four years away from
The first clogging of the Suez Canal and the unholy tripartite marriage.

And my father who had fought unrewarded on the side of Winston Churchill
Had just bought a transistor radio to follow the drowning of the Majesty’s Crown
In the Canal under the impact of the Sinai sand storm caused by the latent force
Of the vitriolic diatribe dressed in the proverbial rhetoric of oriental poetry,
Knowing well if the hulks burned red-hot, the Red Sea would redden the more.

After all if Farouk wasn’t already dead in Turkey, then he was ailing in one
Hurriedly constructed summer resort in the mountains of Switzerland.
I was therefore lucky to be born under the full blaze of Abdul Nasser’s oratory
When the ignominious retreat of the Majesty’s generalissimo freed the children
Of the Sphinx to preserve Cleopatra’s beauty in the Stone-hieroglyphics.

Thus offended, the gnomes of the declining Majesty’s Pounds Sterling
Ordered their cousins who had come from the usurped Wild West to excavate
The historical lands where the Ptolemies were buried to leave in fury.
To please the incendiary, they chose to swim up against the river currents
And so reach Lake Victoria from the earthen remains of the Mummies.

Then I heard it over the transistor radio my father had just bought.
Uncle Sam’s children were hazardously seeking solace at the lakeshores.
Named after their grandmother, its shores could be peaceful for self-enrichment.
And why not? They hadn’t anticipated the 9th October 19621, the date a new
Oratorical Milton2 of Paradise Found would replace the Milton of Paradise Lost.

So we intercepted them even before they reached the source of the Nile,
Having survived the cataracts of the Anya Nya3, they could have been
Torn and eaten into fine particles by the turbines of the Owen Falls Dam.
And so they introduced me, to my later disappointment, to television screens,
Which took my sights beyond the model of the globe in the geography laboratory.

At first I saw the images of the revelers basking in the Miami Beach summer.
Those were the appetizers, sweet enough to beckon some delicious à la carte dish.
I thought we were all innocent and spared the horror of the burning Alexandria
When I soon saw the images of peaceful Vietnamese men and women
In the pally swamps and rice paddies, the objects of their ultimate love.

My half optimism soon traveled full length, anti-clockwise, and bitterly
Turning into full pessimism as the television screens shone cruelly bright
Showing steel eagles flying low over the once tranquil city of Hanoi.
The unknown fliers in denims, dropped molten lava in a gory orgy
Rendering the moonlight an irrelevant sterile meal of the yester-night.

Then a blonde television presenter unraveled the mystery of the chequered diary,
The dawn of a new era; African drums were wet and would remain silent forever;
The Asian flute was permanently mute, and would not sound even for cremation;
The prophylactic blast of the meteorites in their megatons would suffice for them,
The era of nuclear incandescence had arrived: a fitting denouement to 1945?

1 The date Uganda got independence from British colonial rule.
2 An allusion to Dr. Apollo Milton Obote to whom the instruments of power were handed on attainment of the country's independence. He was a good friend of Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and particularly not likeable to the governement of the USA of the time for his open support for the anti-American (Lumumbist) rebels in Congo-Kinshasa.
3 The rebel movement that waged Sudan's first civil war (1955-72).
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<a name="#f3">THE SILENT SILENCE</a>

The wintry dew rests itself firmly on the locked shutter,
Awakened by the incomprehensible onomatopoeias of the boots,
The frightened hermit recollects slowly, waking up.
Alas! Barely standing up but without quite waking up,
Timidly touches the handle with his frail hand,
Feeling freezing cold in the midst of the equatorial scorpions,
He withdraws into the warmth of his bed,
Or, is it the warmth of the dying fire?
Or, is it the warmth of his worn-out blanket?
He falls back on his scraggy back,
Looks up to the dark colouration of the roof,
Dilapidated, the grass thatch lets fall into his eyes
Some soot intermingled with peeled-off scales of a dead lizard.
Unable to decipher any meaning of Time,
No longer in the know of any Place,
He lets his soul fall to fate as the intruders set about,
Setting ablaze this hut and that granary.
In the borrowed winter robes, to the intruders,
The cold dewy dawn counts naught.
Only as the sun claims its place
In the terrestrial sub-domain of the cosmos,
And the borrowed winter robes tire the borrowers,
The slave marauders and their mercenary over-seers,
Do the agents of degeneration and corruption fall
To kiss the hot charcoal of their own inferno.
By that time, not even the silence of the silent,
Is loud enough to save the timid.
Except the audacious, wounded though,
Survives undaunted to tell the bitter tale
That shall go down for a story told and re-told.
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<a name="#f4">FAIR FREEDOM</a>

Fair Freedom, we long for your return;
You, having hastily departed
In the face of the hot air
That violently blew from the furnace
Of that man-made glass caves hidden in the clouds,
Just as the sun was beginning
To measure the length
Of the handle of the adult spear.

Fair Freedom, we solemnly bereave,
Weeping for your departure
Even before you reached mid-way
To your noon, just as the morning dew
Was beginning to say adieu to the grass;
And you abandoned the milk of that morning
At the foot of the granary, never to sour to taste
But waste away in fermentation and final rot.

Fair Freedom, we pray for your safe return
That the cruel iron boots
Of the re-incarnated Cecil Rhodes slip
Over your head, scratching if at all,
But at the surface of the replaceable skin,
Thus sparing the skull that houses the gray treasure
So, you may think of your orphaned beholders
And throw your umbrella over them.

Fair freedom, we confide in your insolubility,
Confident that with our sweat dripping
On the roofs of the high glass caves, cooling gently
The oozing hot spring of their volcano
Our blood shall resurrect our blacksmiths
Who lying in coma at Mapumbubwe*, await the moment
When the nefarious iron boots of the
Monsters shall melt in their cauldrons.

*"Mapumbubwe" is sometimes spelt as "Mapungubwe". It is a famous site of a pre-colonial iron culture, located in the modern Zimbabwe. I sought some clarification for the variation of the spellings. This is what a comrade from Zimbabwe had to say:

Brother ZAN,
Both are correct. It depends on which part of Zimbabwe you come from i.e. in terms of dialects. The so-called Shona are not one ethnic group; they are a grouping of many sub-ethnic [nationality] groups with different dialects. The standard Shona language as we have come to know it is an imposition by the colonialists.
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<a name="#f5">MOTHERS’ EXHORTATION</a>

For the pain we felt in our wombs, our son
Hold your heart and hearken our ululation:

In the mousy’s teeth is reflected your fate,
Smiling to show but belie one colour.

Of the shown, by your naked eyes you see,
But only your sixth sense shall tell of your gore.

See the half-light reflecting the unclipped dahlias.
It deludes you into seeing the resemblance of emerald.

Against the silhouette of the magnolias,
Are glittering eyes that never see but sniff.

What reality can you make of the mixed premonitions
As sweet smiles are contradicted by eerie winds?

Only the arrival of one willowy will save you
As she beckons you to the willows in the gentle rain.

Then shall you realize, the unseeing sensitive eyes
Actually sit on the corpulent head of a clammy thread.

And of the dahlias and the alluring mirage of diamonds
With the harmony the magnolias borrow from the rainbow,

There lies the dicey sweet scent of the flower,
Its bitter fruit unveiled by the proverbial Macbeth:

"Be welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue! Look like the innocent flower,
But be the Serpent under it."
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We are grateful to Abraham
He left footprints for us to follow
And if we feel thirsty, we shall follow him
To arrive at the kraal of Solomon
Where we shall drink from his wise vase.
Should a hostile meteorite obey Nero
And fall on our naked skulls,
Our ancestors had the foresight,
They bequeathed to us some medicinal plants.
Their roots are cool, soothing;
We shall gently rub them on our heads.
Who says wounds shall fester on the blessed heads?
Let the peasants remember to respect the libations,
Elders, you are right to eat the roasted meat reserved for you,
But you must keep singing the ageless epics,
The sweet sounds of the youths’ flutes are already rising
And from atop the hillocks, the emboldened mothers ululate
Watching the homing wagtails,
As the hornbills say adieu to the setting sun.
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<a name="#f7">DEMISE IN AUDACITY</a>

The tearless crying eyes,
in the silence of the courageous
watch the destiny’s canopy drift;
beneath the feet, the scorched earth erodes.

The doctor stands bemused; and
at her, lying on her countable ribs,
the nurse looks at that withering away
as the festering leg disengages from the body.

The peacemakers laugh sardonically
and the priest at the altar grimly smiles
as the eagle flashes its own image;
joyfully both salute, kinder to burry than resuscitate.

The tearless crying eyes,
in the silence of the courageous
are still there, never blinking but
witnessing the doctor’s élan ebb.

The dry season has arrived,
and like the bush fire
turning the hill slopes black and grey,
effrontery gnaws humanity.
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The sombre walls of the sleeping forest
Tremble under the sounds of the burning bells
And the eerily silence of the dark night are
Interrupted by the howling of the slobbered dogs,
The malefactor roams about planting sharp thorns.

The night, very dark, is ideal for the gorgon’s opera
Following the retreat of the sun beyond the masses of the thick cloud
Where the lights seemed to have conspired with darkness
Thus siding with the wicked to humble the power of good.
Even the stars are too shy to gaze down upon the earth.

Far above the jagged peaks of the distant mountains
The forests display a mirage of steaming evening fog,
Preventing the blessing of the much revered rain,
As if encouraged by the unwonted, deep silence of the forest,
The waterfalls speak with deafening roars, condolences from our lips

Like the blind, we cannot distinguish form from formlessness,
And like careworn sages, we drift from our hovels towards the river
Feeling the painful torment of solitude bereft of peace.
Our ears can hear nothing except the moaning of our bleeding souls
That seems to rise above the deep murmurs and violent gurgles of the river.

The indifferent river goes on, floating in its selfish discourse.
It never ceases as we cease, keeps on fast as we slow to a stop.
Leaning on our broken stuff, we envy it as it defies joy and sorrow alike
Leaving us to brood over our suffering and strife, our failures and deaths,
Yet carrying us along, deep into its bosom as friends and foes alike.

Perchance, our thirst drives us to drink love and hate from its waters, and
On the slippery banks of the life saver or giver of death, agent of delivery
Or of prison, our breasts and lungs let out a deep sigh of despair.
For the singing of the birds returns to a funerary lullaby, as we let
Our feet slip into the red river, thus carrying us to rest forever under the gorges.
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<a name="#f9">LAMENT ON THE ANT-HILL</a>

This is the time to sacrifice the he-goat:

When mute, scansion of the children’s evening citations fall silent
The hissing from beneath the scarlet pimpernel rises high,
It holds down from ascent the spirit of the doting grandmothers,
Driving them to dote the squalling for fear the apocalypse is nigh.

And from the soot filled hut
let the girls violate the taboo
remove the cold drums to warm;
and why is the flicker in the hearth
not responding to the last winds -
fulfilling the premonition of the nightjar
that scudded over the mother queen?

This is the time to sacrifice the he-goat:

When the ancestral flute cannot sound at the third cock’s crow,
And the chill winds of the dawn bring home the news of angina,
The robbers are arriving to pin the king down on the cold floor
As he dreams of clambering an iron tree behind the guillotine.

And from the soot filled hut
let the girls violate the taboo
remove the cold drums to warm;
and why is the flicker in the hearth
not responding to the last winds -
fulfilling the premonition of the nightjar
that scudded over the mother queen?

This is the time to sacrifice the he-goat:

When the talon causes the canvas of blood to spread in the kraal,
And the scabbard remains closed, fastened to the hips,
And like the snared monkey, the guards are tantalized into hypnotism,
The disconsolate courtiers let ajar the portcullis to the courtyard.

And from the soot filled hut
let the girls violate the taboo
remove the cold drums to warm;
and why is the flicker in the hearth
not responding to the last winds -
fulfilling the premonition of the nightjar
that scudded over the mother queen?

The he-goat cleanses the content of the scabbard
And by its horns paws the eerie air to bless its own immolation,
So its blood may not earn the curse of the mother earth
When called upon to unbind the soul tethered to the burning rock:


When hallucinatory apparitions of ogre appear,
Seeming more real than life’s hooks:
This is the time to sacrifice the he-goat.
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<a name="#f10">ON THE ROCK OF MY ANCESTRY</a>

In Romania, the body died, it was of the Osagyefo*
And the torrents of sadness gushed out of the loud wailing.
I was too young to weep a mature weeping for him
So to date I continue mourning for him, the Osagyefo,
An everlasting mourning for the departure of Africa’s star.
Against the cruel world, I habour my cruel anger
That I have not met her who in this great misfortune
When the vanguard gate of Africa was breached,
Had the fortune to sit by his last bed in Bucharest
As gently the sage exhaled his last wisdom to Africa.
And my bleeding heart, perpetually stuck to Africa
Lets down into the mother earth, red drips fall.
My mind wanders from one foreign kraal to another.
And in every echo by Africa’s ice-capped mountains
Kilimanjaro, Kirinyaga and Rwenzori, I hear the intensity
Of the Osagyefo’s anthem, piercing the ears of the somnambulist.
Who says he stopped singing for united Africa in Bucharest?
I can hear in his echo a warning against the sorcerer,
The stealthily walking Prospero, the dejected Duke of Milan
Now resurrected as a colossus towering above Africa.
He commands Ariel to fly about, above and below the radars,
Thus forcing down the gullets of the continent’s orphans
Now abandoned by fate on the burnt banks of the Nile
The sharp bones of the stolen fish, and floating on the river
Are the decomposed remains the vultures have even rejected.
Who can command a clean-up operation for this timeless blood,
The life-blood of the primordial civilization when before the Osagyefo,
The illustrious Abdel Nasser laid silent, and the Northeastern gate
Was left ajar, and the desecration of the Sphinx began in earnest.
I look southwards beyond the great walls of Zimbabwe
And I see the warriors who entered into the walls of Cape Town
All crest fallen; they are sleeping on the boulevard pavements
For listening to the returnees from the sojourn to Churchill’s Museum;
And against Shaka’s exhortation, they drank from unknown bottles
So unwittingly did they place themselves under sedation
Leaving Steve Biko’s grave unguarded, open to the grave robbers.
My heartache aggravates and I trust no expert cardiologist
So for a peg, against the rock of my ancestry, melancholy is tethered.


*Osagyefo is a title for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana and during his life time the leading champion of African Unity.
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<a name="#f11">I DREAM OF A VULTURE</a>

I dream of a vulture perched on the thorny tree
whose poisonous seeds were blown from beneath the setting sun,
and scattered by the wild winds to germinate in a garden
once misappropriated by one accursed Nimrod
now much admired by the leprous boatman on the Thames.

I dream of a vulture perched on the thorny tree
whose poisonous fruits have been dropped by a rascal eagle,
and scattered in Hamurabi’s desecrated garden
to finally dissolve in the two rivers Ibrahim once cleansed;
and we thought pigs would never drink from them.

I dream of a vulture perched on the thorny tree
whose poisonous roots are spreading in all orchards,
and engrafting themselves onto the roots of our sweet oranges
to produce the portent gin that poisoned the mind of one rascal prince.

I could dream and dream and dream…
on and on and on…
but the sweet song of the nightingale awakens me;
I see a forged rusty sword fallen on the hot sand,
strange bodies rotting into misery of abomination after an unholy good bye.

After the putrid blood of Nimrod’s grand-followers dries
and is blown away by a directionless wind,
I get the sweet aroma of the holy blood oozing from the earth;
the living martyrs beckon me to celebrate their eternal victory
under the cool canopy of Sulayman’s robe whose sweet scent filling the air
could move her,
the Queen of Sheba,
in her distant court into an undying admiration.
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<a name="#f12">I DREAM OF UR CHALDEA</a>

From Um Al-Qasr, I set off in search of Ibrahim’s cradle;
but the thick smoke vomited by the sinful eagle was too dark,
too opaque. I could not see the stars the noble astronomers marked,
the stars that guided our holy ancestors on their journeys to al-Quds.

So tired in body,
I lay in an abandoned orchard between the two rivers,
dreaming of Ur Chaldea.

But I do recall vividly in that dream I heard him,
like the Roman Artemidorus of the old,
warning me of the eagle’s anthem on the banks of the mighty Congo River,
undaunted, rumbling through Africa’s equatorial forest.

I recall.

As I was dreaming of Ur Chaldea,
I heard Tchicaya U Tam’si before me

Salute to every upright head
In another hour I shall be yapping

I will console with one hand
if they will let me torture with the other
this dying heart *

So I woke up to see,

A cowboy dressed in blood-spattered blue jeans sitting by a lake of blood
and from a human skull excavated at the foot of the Andes,
he drinks some palm wine looted from the Bight of Guinea;
blows the horn snatched from the Kalahari
to invite the lawyer from the Thames.

A lawyer dressed in a stolen robe of a murdered astrologer,
even though he never learnt to spell any single Oriental name,
pretends to be reading the constellation of the celestial
to cure the leprosy of the boatman marooned in the Straights of Jebel Tariq**
so that he may take them across the Suez to put out the holy fire of the Sinai.

By the dilapidated tomb of the Pharaoh in the Sahara,
two putrid minds fervently congratulate each other
as their artists paint the portraits of their vandals
burning the ancient library of the House of Wisdom
in which the Greek Master once took refuge.

On the two pairs of the holy banks, innocent souls resurrect
to see the sun rays pricking the evil eyes of the vulture
which had accompanied the eagle and burnt into ashes the thorny tree
as the nightingale slowly sings celebrating the ignominy of the pair
who sought to emulate Musa and Harun at the gate of Canaan.
*The words of Tchicaya U Tam’si in his poem, "The Salute". (Tchicaya U Tam’si, Selected Poems , Heinemann (AWS) 1970; translated from French by Gerald Moore).

**Jebel Tariq is the Arabic name the Latins corrupted to Gibraltar.
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<a name="#f13">I DREAM OF GOLD</a>

From under his filthy bowl hat, the sorcerer pulls out a bundle of green notes
bespattered with blood of the murdered baby
and presses it into the hands of the hermit whose mortal heart
is satisfied with his own destiny of dignity
and despises as a skin bag of evil passions
the naked belly jutting out of the ill-fitting jacket of green jeans.

Oh, what comes out of an ancestry that hides its history
in a song of plagiarized lyrics, a song of some stolen tune!

Like the water snake in the clogged river,
it coils itself around the tree of virtue
and let fall the fruits on the desecrated earth,
sounding the death knell of human culture.

Succulent and bitter fruits hang delicately on the branches of a flame tree
under which a summit of three robbers progresses;
like blood oozing from the bruised shoulders of my worthy ancestors
forced across the vast salty bridge,
red liquids drip from the fruits that resemble fists of flame.

Like the hermit, I shall prefer
the holy darkness of the cave.

Who says all lights are holy, when
after dreaming of gold, I
was awakened by the supplication of the hermit
to witness a demon flashing light from beneath the lethal tongue of a serpent?

Musa’s exit from Pharaoh’s palace is final,
and the holy fire of the Sinai is not for the covetous eyes
that have known no ablution;
so how can we trust a reptile that runs on its belly
when the Canaan is so callously desecrated?
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<a name="#f14">I DREAM OF A DOVE</a>

I dream of a dove perched on the guillotine and
wake up to hear of three sorcerers
united by their love for hatred.

They kidnap and murder the Berber fishermen;
and into a cabal’s resort,
they turn the island off the Andalusia coast.

To their meeting to conjure a game of villainy
and win the hearts of Angels to dine with Lucifer,
they summon the Oceanic witch to play the magic skills.

But, alas,
what sane mind can dine
where the menu is monogrammed in the blood of Adam’s children?

For the inauguration of their vendetta,
they feed on the entrails of pigs
and drink warm stinking blood of hyenas.

Who then should wonder why
instead of a flock of sheep
they should win a flock of wolves?

They cannot feel the vulgarity of the current
that has swept them onto this island
off the Andalusia coast, far from the fresh waters and fruits of the Canary.

The brief lightning that has lit the eastern skies,
they have missed it
to get drowned in the long night of their dark hearts.

What branch of our genealogical tree
can save a triumvirate of an alien sorcery
from drowning in the spilled blood of Hawa’s off-springs?

It is dawn,
the Hoopoe has arrived, I
must set off to pray for another death.
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<a name="#f15">I DREAM OF A WAY FAIRER</a>

I dream of a traveler crossing the Arabian Desert without a bottle of water
and a sailor on the Atlantic dying of thirst.

The angels have told me something new:

I could quench my thirst from a vase empty of water
when the vast ocean fails to save the thirsty travelers,
forced from the mother continent, from death.

The desert is not nothing;
nothing is not something,
the wide expanse of sand is something,
a magnetic object that pulls from the farthest poles,
defying the vast expanse of the accursed ocean.

I have not heard of a holy way fairer
dying of thirst on the road between Basra and Baghdad
but millions of my ancestors perished on the Atlantic for lack of water!

When I finish narrating this story,
three sleeping lunatics will wake up,
look up at the bright cold moon lighting the eastern horizon
and imagine some gold falling from a heaven they have offended
and press my kith and kin for dark obedience.

To plant a shaft of depleted uranium into an oasis well,
a herds boy shall pair up with a boy cleaning the chimney of Liverpool
to invite the son of the vine grower across the Straight of Jebel Tariq*
who would have been sleeping for all the millennia of human existence
had the Crescent not appeared on the peninsular.

Growing lighter at their bellies as their heavy tails start waging them,
three dogs shall keep bailing for the blood of the guardians of the oasis.

They know not what bitter death awaits them
when their masters,
or three sleeping lunatics shall wake up,
and competitively rush into the well of perdition.
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<a name="#f16">THE EAGLE IN DILEMMA</a>

When the eagle spread its wings
Thick and heavy over our world,
The sun disappeared into the remote sky
And darkness enveloped the plains and valleys.
Men and women became blind,
Like goats, tethered to the peg of fate.
They could not witness the shackles
As monsters wearing infra-red torches
Firmly fastened on their burning horns
Set about burning our homes
And others draining from the sacred stream
To live dry the valley of life to harness death.
The houses, deprived of sunlight
Could have decomposed in damp darkness,
Had they not set them in smoldering ruins.
Only one treasure remained unscathed,
The sacred anthem of the free ancestors
Its words, sharp like the warrior’s spear
Pierced the ears and hearts of the monsters
And the eagle could not descend unguarded
Thus its wings clipped, it wondered
"What detonator can detonate the strong will power?"
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<a name="#f17">AFRICA, TELL HIM</a>

Brothers of the great Nile, Tigris and Euphrates,
I see you in nature's innocence gently flowing
Through the fields of the liquid black gold,
Effusive, attractive baits they are
For him, the rapacious prince of dead fortune.
Between nature's living fortune and
The innocent children of Ur Chaldea,
He seeks to super-impose an opaque curtain
Weaved out of thick blood, boiling hot.
His wild spirit, stirred by untamed passion
For a dukedom without boundaries,
Outgrows, sharper than a surgeon's knife
And pierces through its own sheath
And cuts asunder the hedge of reason.
But what wise prince can gamble
On the Ides of a date unwritten on the calendar
When in heaven saints reside not in castles
Built of glass walls and marble floors?
I see the earthly heaven of the prince
Glittering gold, crumble momentarily
Like a child's beautiful house
Built of cards on a mahogany table.
The daylight, saturated with the thunderous
Spectrum blotching the offended skies,
Becomes too dazzling for the ravenous eyes
And it mingles with impromptu darkness
To hide the noon sun whose existence
Is only recognizable by the heat
Melting the tall glass castles,
The prince's earthly paradise,
Into unrecognizable existence, icky ashes.
When the tempest subsides,
Nothing remains for the eyes to see
Except the gigantic Africa,
Telling him, the prince of passion
The ancient sacred taboo,
What stranger should insolently climb up
Unscathed into the granary of the clan?
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<a name="#f18">WHITHER YOUTHFUL BLOOD?</a>

Whither youthful blood?
When the old one has run cold
And the Fatherland totters,
Under whose roof
Can the widow shelter
The innocent orphan
Who shall grow up
Never to know a father’s love
But always exposed to the insults
So easily meted by those in this land
Whose xenophobic psychology
Has become their culture?
Whither youthful blood?
The poor widow asks
When she sees her only neighbour
A widower himself
Walking in the ruthless tropical downpours
The remaining rugs all drenched cold.
There is one echo in the valley
Whose ululation is so loud
"Whither Patriotism?"
From the fertile Delta
Basking under the Sahara Sun
The conquered waives a fist
To acknowledge a hero’s welcome
And arousing the slumbering youth
To the rattling sounds
Whose hearts have resurrected
To sacrifice in honour.
The torrents must be defied,
For on the Equator the orphan shall grow
And with full zest erect one single hut
Under whose roof the widower shall peacefully
Rest on the lapse of the widow
Awaiting his final return to the last abode.
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<a name="#f19">I Dream of a Carnival</a>

I dream of a carnival of cannibals led by
one Bush-man from the ancient city of Gomorrah;
buoyoned by Mussolini’s embrace,
he visits us looking for love by cluster bombs and depleted uranium.

His nostrils sniff every fortune far into the subterranean cave of the cosmos
yet rebel against his own passion
as vainly he attempts to rid his body of the remaining vomitive.

How can he escape the rare distinction of squatting on the red stool
placed on the right hand side of Hitler
when his belly is a pot of what even the hyenas have rejected?

The eyes, even though as covetous as those of the hunting dogs,
have been crushed by the dead stone sitting on his neck;
he cannot see with his open eyes the bright silence
sitting in the midst of humanity’s conscience;
and under the moonlight compromised by the hanging shadows of Emmet Till,*
he triumphantly displays as souvenir the cheek bones
his rabid dogs brought from the desolate suburbs of Basra.

I could have fallen on my back,
had I not had the premonition the previous night
when in a dream I saw ventriloquist jackals
celebrating a birth day with roasted flesh of a screech-owl
and two conquering sovereigns exchanging incredible credentials
ahead of a carnival of cannibals celebrating the departure of Hamurabi.

*Emmet Till was a young black American lynched by a mob - in fact killed and dismembered for looking with desire upon a white woman.
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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Wed Aug 20, 2003 8:18 am

<a name="#g1">IF GOD WON'T DESTROY THE QUEEN*</a>

Over the eastern wall, the sun is rising.
Behind the scented tents, the first glows appear
And even though the next dawn is not nigh,
The old one hasn't traveled too far for the mind's eyes.

How can we ever forget the light following dawn?
When the new crescent was first sighted over Andalusia,
Plato and Aristotle were baptized in Latin names.

Over the western wall, the sun is setting.
Behind the putrescent castles, the last glows fade off
And even though the next dawn is not nigh,
The old one has traveled too far for the mind's eyes.

How can we ever remember the darkness following dusk?
When Vasco da Gama sailed east, he left trails of smoldering cities
And Christopher Columbus sailed west, but spit his venom southwards.

I see hordes of locusts east-bound, crossing the Suez,
The Mediterranean over flooded with the dreaded Armada.
If David Hume's mother were still alive,
In a song, she would have wondered:

"If God won't destroy the Queen".
*First published in the Meeting of the Minds Journal Vol.1 No.8

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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Fri Aug 22, 2003 4:11 am


Don’t you wonder why you found me still awake
even after your insolence stealthy crept in the still darkness of mid-night
to pour the stinking libations on the unmarked grave of Moishe Tsombe,
the grand Iscariot of the betrayed continent.

How could I continue in slumber after the inhabitants of the cemetery
rebelled against your rituals at the gates of the cathedral
to rehabilitate Judas Iscariot in the name of Africa?

Sleep has taken leave of me,
seeing I dream of an archaeologist from Nubia
standing astride Mexico’s northern frontiers
laughing course at the forged remains of a pyramid without a Pharaoh.

I could have waltzed to the rumblings of the marauding iron elephants
but robbers from the Wall Street
assembled at the smouldering remains of the Twin Towers
and at Rodney King, they yelled so loudly as to awaken me to see:

You drink Malcolm X’s blood to your Jubilate
because your ancestors had not the foresight to bequeath to you the green of nature
but uprooted all the vegetation in the usurped California
so that you have no more manure for growing the vines of your addiction
and yet your parents had given you your first bath in a barrel of gin.

On your way to drain Vietnam of its golden swamps
and rape the Japanese school girls out of their innocence,
you have destroyed all the crops of golden flowers
the wise visitors from the East planted in Bethlehem
because your tinted retina cannot recognize the olive branch
from the flames of the burning forest of your base passion
even though you learnt umpteen times to spell the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

Where against the will of his ancestors,
Dubois was born, *
you have created your own Misr
and there chained the pupils of Marcus Garvey
to build for you a castle of plagiarized architecture
that no historian will ever record and no archaeologist will ever excavate.

I must have been right to think you who lives en route to the sky
was born on the lap of a Sadducee in Gomorrah
and baptized by a Pharisee in Sodoma
because your heart is of strange anatomy,
bespattered with all the filth your mentors have excreted the world over,
heaped some in the inner city where my kith and kin are consigned
to commemorate with bleeding eyes the immolation of Emmet Till.**

Don’t wonder what funerary ram I, dispossessed,
will leave to be slaughtered on my death
since a million pairs of hands that did not reach to pick the cotton,
the hands that did not reach to carry the pit axes down the gold and silver mines,
all await to hold my body as the spikes of the Statue of Liberty
are sharpened, readied by a Mayor who has never worn a black mourning colour,
to pierce my heart and drain the deluge of humility inside.

I shall fall in the kindred hands;
the archaeologists I dream of will never excavate my body and
the herds boy will never display
any single piece of my bones for a souvenir of conquest.
*I have had to correct the spelling of “Dubois” after burdick’s kind reminder. I am grateful to the reader.
**Emmet Till was a young black American lynched by a mob -
in fact killed and dismembered for looking with desire upon a white woman.

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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Mon Aug 25, 2003 3:35 am

<a name="#g3">I DREAM OF A RAM</a>

After I have obeyed the holy echo from the minaret
and brazed the biting cold dawn,
the peace that departed at midnight returns to place me,
like a baby
in a warm soft bed,
the nightingale sings the lullaby.

Upward to heaven,
my peaceful heart ascends
so that the sleep guilty of letting night slip away,
for its atonement,
returns to soothe me
as I dream of the sacrificial ram
under the shadow of some gentle rain cast over to harden the sand below.

Over me
an image in a spotless white robe appears
to resound the ancient elegy of the coast of Senegambia.

I can hear the voices of some forty innocent ones
in unison, melting into an audible premonition
as the innocent air keeps howling curses at the long-horned eagles.

Then I wake up
to find along the stairway
grimfaced robbers in black jeans,
eagles perched on their dead heads.

but for the last time,
drawing back into my room, I
look up at the calendar:

The day of the week: THURSDAY

And at dusk I would have been at the station
to follow the supplications of the Holy
that the scribes left in the library
soon to be set on fire by the vomiting eagles.

The month of the year: MARCH

Had it not been a week later,
I would have blamed Julius Caesar for cultivating the rotten seeds of confidence
and thanked the Soothsayer for the humanity in him.

The day of the month: TWENTIETH

The dawn of a day,
Thursday, 20th Day of March, 2003

As I was beginning to imagine an Ides of the conspiratorial vandals,
a loud siren sounded
announcing the murder of civilization.

But where was it buried?
We shall know only when it finally resurrects
under the ever burning torch of the primordial civilization.

to humanity

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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Tue Aug 26, 2003 5:31 am

<a name="#g4">I DREAM OF AN OVAL CAVE</a>

I have accompanied the sun to its resting place,
seen under the dim rays of a moon,
pathetic, abandoned by the departed stars,
my disembodied brother
in agony.

My soul,
in an unsafe asylum close to the heated clouds, nervously watches guard
in case the scavengers should perform a pre-mature postmortem on him
as they did on those
who committed the crime of receiving humanely Christopher Columbus.
My placid body falls besides a hut of cardboard
an innocent anonymous jail bird from Mexico constructed.

In a state of uncomfortable slumber,
I dream of a dark oval cave that delights lice and jiggers;
and at the farthest arc a lunatic serial executioner squats;
he is signing a bundle of papers, or is it a bundle of tickets
to the last land for those who inconveniently continue writing the biographies
of their dispossessed ancestors.

I see apparitions pleading with him
as he signs more cards to invite innocent souls out of their bodies,
blood drenched, haggard, dejected
and forced to lie helplessly on the nail studded hot floor.

A horde of buffaloes with iron hoofs passes by the red-washed surgery theatre;
inside Okito painfully watches a bastard who had never heard of Hippocrates
extracting without anesthesia Lumumba’s tooth
as Mpolo wondered how presumed carriers of civilization,
the white hands that are clean because they are white,
should be so stony cold in their filth as to beat the beasts at the beastly game.1

a flock of vultures that had hovered over and above Dedan Kimathi’s grave2
treacherously hidden in Nairobi’s inconveniently historical Kamiti Prison,3
follow strange monstrous eagles with their naked talons in their unlicensed flight
to annihilate the sacrificial pigeons Hamurabi bequeathed to his progeny.

Their wings produce howitzer-like sounds, and I wake up to
read my name in a black book hauled in a cave full of human skeletons
and see my brother’s remains wrapped in blood stained army blankets
being transported down the Hill of mischief as pudding for the Atlantic
octopus that had grown fat on the kindred body and blood
which failed to reach the dark eastern coast,
an eastern coast shielded from the bright sun rays by some humans’ beastly greed,
an eastern coast on which the Haven-Of-Peace refused to be built.

The monstrous cocking of rifles along the rugged corridor
explains the loud silence that imposes the thick air of toxicity.

I wonder,
has a vulture’s head been transplanted on a human neck?
Barely visible through the dim rays of the moribund moon,
I see two objects
like two ostrich eggs
or two bulging eyes, red like a setter’s,
glitter at the voluptuous seductive eyes of a virago,
or is it a put-up smile?

Dressed in a red blouse,
the virago rehearses how to allure the vulture’s victims,
leading their necks into their fatally last rendezvous of knotted red strips.

Could this have been the dark cave
in which the ancestral witches took the sinful decision
to send wild buffaloes to trample on Hamurabi’s grave?
I can faintly see the virago and her lunatic patron sharing a stolen pen,
a pen stolen from Hamurabi’s study,
the very pen his scribes used to write the law books into which a lawyer
sailing in a leper’s boat on the river of blood
wants to induct another robber ensconced in a ranch of wolves.

The dark cave darkens further, but
vainly hides the identities of the unenviable trimmers of life
so that I can still see their sleepless eyes finally gone red,
painted with the remains of my brother’s blood they drank the previous night
as they brew with the rabid dogs of war
the gruel they would drink at dawn with the hyenas
that have continued to prowl about in Hamurabi’s desolate homestead.
1Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito were all together murdered by Belgian and CIA agents in 1961. A Belgian Police officer confessed in front of the cameras that before killing them, he removed Lumumba’s tooth as souvenir!
2Dedan Kimathi was the leader of the nationalist Kenya Land freedom Army (KLFA), otherwise commonly known as the Mau Mau . He was captured and murdered by the British Colonial forces. It is believed that he was secretly burried within the perimeter fence of the Kamiti Prison.
3Kamiti Prison (Nairobi – Kenya) is the notorious place in which successive neo-colonialist governments incarcerated many progressives and pro-democracy activists. At the time, such violations of basic human rights were applauded in the West as legitimate measures to fight “communism”.

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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Fri Aug 29, 2003 11:40 pm

<a name="#g5">I DREAM OF A CASTLE</a>

Between sleep and waking, I dream of a crumbling castle,
and see the inside of a cathedral smeared with cow dung by a herds boy
hiding his stony physiognomy behind a pseudo-ecclesiastical frock.

A dying monarch broods over its fate and a Bishop at the
Canterbury hides his face in shame
after dinning with a Pharisee in a Downing Street restaurant.

Who knows what he blesses:
the victims or the murderers.

Suddenly a liquor connoisseur becomes an altar boy
and at the gate of the Cathedral
brushes aside the Apostolic servant
as he shoves his way through the mass of innocent worshippers
to illegitimately partake in the communion.

Two nude spears appear from beneath a bench
shared by the two masking their red teeth behind white laughter of deceit.

Looking up, they see a red scar on my forehead
and break into some sardonic laughter,
betraying the empty vase of the sanctimonious.

The oar of greed propels the canoe of sorcery far,
far deep in to the middle of the dark waters of hate
where not far from the open gate of the Nuremberg
a herds boy and a chimney cleaner cast their finishing nets.

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Post by ZUBAIRI ATAMVAKU NASSEEM » Fri Aug 29, 2003 11:47 pm

<a name="g5">THE WELCOME NOOSE</a>

At the cocks’ crow, the wings of the dawn flew
Ensconced far into the western corner of the sky,
Giving way to the blossoms of the awakened day.
Out of the dark bowl of the discreet night,
The sharp edge of the bright morning showed.
Like the glittering blade of the hunter’s spear,
It threatened out of visibility the stars of yester-night
And into devious hiding, their brightness retreated.
To the sharp gnawing teeth of the triumphant daylight,
The wooden turret of the uncrowned clay castle is exposed.
Blindfolded by the dazzling light, like the hostile lightening,
Out of the royal tavern, intoxicated with the aura of the self,
The haughty Prince walks his neck into the noose of justice
And helplessly, the gagged soul dangles in bitter solitude.
This poem was first published in the Meeting of the Minds Journal Vol.1 No.8

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