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Poetry

My Friends

By Abdoul Mtoka
Translated from Swahili by Shook & Jean Claude Nduwimana
Has justice disappeared? / Has man turned animal?

My friends are distressed
Stunned into silence
Many of them grieve
And all have despaired

Suddenly the night has attacked us
It’s so dark I can’t see my path
Darkness spreads over everything
Like grief after a death           

People look for light
They search for candles, lanterns
To cast light on this tragedy
Instead of lighting their houses

My friends grieve
And my brothers
Stunned into silence
Everyone despairs                            

Silence unfurls everywhere
Violence reigns
Has justice disappeared?
Has man turned animal?

No one stands up for the word
It is attacked and crucified
And we are in a state of sleep
Speaking truth is under threat

My brothers mourn
Stunned into silence
My brothers grieve
Everyone despairs

But I hear the voices
That the river carries
And my heart is buoyed
They keep calling me

I stand up to look for them
But only hear their advice:
“Though your rights have sunk
Someday they will float back up.”

Grieve not, my brothers
There’s no reason to be silent
Grieve not, my brothers
We can’t ever give up

© Abdoul Mtoka. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by David Shook and Jean Claude Nduwimana. All rights reserved. 

English

My friends are distressed
Stunned into silence
Many of them grieve
And all have despaired

Suddenly the night has attacked us
It’s so dark I can’t see my path
Darkness spreads over everything
Like grief after a death           

People look for light
They search for candles, lanterns
To cast light on this tragedy
Instead of lighting their houses

My friends grieve
And my brothers
Stunned into silence
Everyone despairs                            

Silence unfurls everywhere
Violence reigns
Has justice disappeared?
Has man turned animal?

No one stands up for the word
It is attacked and crucified
And we are in a state of sleep
Speaking truth is under threat

My brothers mourn
Stunned into silence
My brothers grieve
Everyone despairs

But I hear the voices
That the river carries
And my heart is buoyed
They keep calling me

I stand up to look for them
But only hear their advice:
“Though your rights have sunk
Someday they will float back up.”

Grieve not, my brothers
There’s no reason to be silent
Grieve not, my brothers
We can’t ever give up

© Abdoul Mtoka. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by David Shook and Jean Claude Nduwimana. All rights reserved. 

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