Poem by Mahmoud Darwish
A State of Siege (translated by Ramsis Amun)
Here, where the hills slope before the sunset and the chasm of time
near gardens whose shades have been cast aside
we do what prisoners do
we do what the jobless do
we sow hope
In a land where the dawn sears
we have become more doltish
and we stare at the moments of victory
there is no starry night in our nights of explosions
our enemies stay up late, they switch on the lights
in the intense darkness of this tunnel
Here after the poems of Job, we wait no more
This siege will persist until we teach our enemies
models of our finest poetry
the sky is leaden during the day
and a fiery orange at night… but our hearts
are as neutral as the flowery emblems on a shield
here, not “I”
Here, Adam remembers the clay of which he was born
He says, on the verge of death, he says,
“I have no more earth to lose”
Free am I, close to my ultimate freedom, I hold my
fortune in my own hands
In a few moments, I will begin my life
born free of father and mother
I will chose letters of sky blue for my name
Under siege, life is the moment between remembrance
of the first moment, and forgetfulness of the last
here, under the mountains of smoke, on the threshold
of my home,
time has no measure
We do what those who give up the ghost do…
we forget our pain
Pain is when the housewife forsakes hanging up the
clothes to dry and is content
that this flag of Palestine should be without stain
There is no Homeric echo here
Myths come knocking on our door when we need them
There is no Homeric echo here… only a general
looking through the rubble for the awakening state
concealed within the galloping horse from Troy
The soldiers measure the space between being and
with field-glasses behind a tank’s armory
We measure the space between our bodies and the coming rockets
with our sixth sense alone
You there, by the threshold of our door
Come in, and sip with us our Arabic coffee
[you may even feel that you are human, just as we are]
you there, by the threshold of our door
take your rockets away from our mornings
we may then feel secure
[and almost human]
We may find time for relaxation and fine art
We may play cards, and read our newspapers
Catching up on the news of our wounded past
and we may look up our star signs in the year
two thousand and two, the camera smiles
to those born under the sign of the siege
Whenever yesterday comes to me, I say to her,
Now’s not the right time. Go
and come tomorrow!
I wrack my head, but uselessly.
What can someone like me think of, there,
on the tip of the hillside, for the past 3 thousand
and in this passing moment?
My thoughts slay me
my memory awakens me
When the helicopters disappear the doves fly back
white, very white, marking the cheeks of the horizon
with liberated wings. They revive their radiance and
of the sky, and of playfulness. Higher and higher they
the doves, very white. “O that the sky
was real” [a man passing between two bombs cried]
A sparkling sky, a vision, lightning!
all very similar…
soon I will know if this is indeed
or my close friends will know that the poem
has gone, and yoked its poet
[to a critic:] Don’t interpret my words
as you stir the sugar in your cup, or munch your
breast of chicken!
Words put me under siege in my sleep…
the words I did not utter.
They write me, then leave me searching for the remains
of my sleep
The evergreen Cypresses behind the soldiers are
the sky from falling. Behind the barbed wire
are soldiers urinating- protected by a tank.
The Autumn day completes its golden stroll on the
a street as empty as a church after Sunday prayers
Tomorrow we will love life.
When tomorrow comes, life will be something to adore
just as it is, ordinary, or tricky
gray, or colorful…stripped of judgement day and
and if joy is a necessity
let it be
light on the heart and the back
Once embittered by joy, twice shy
A satirical writer said to me:
If I knew the end of the story at the very beginning
there would be nothing to laugh about!
[To a killer:] If you reflected upon the face
of the victim you slew, you would have remembered your
mother in the room
full of gas. You would have freed yourself
of the bullet’s wisdom,
and changed your mind: “I will never find myself
[To another killer:] If you left the foetus thirty days
in its mother’s womb, things would have been different.
The occupation would be over and this suckling infant
would forget the time of the siege
and grow up a healthy child
reading at school, with one of your daughters
the ancient history of Asia.
They might even fall in love
and give birth to a daughter [she would be Jewish by birth].
What, then, have you done now?
Your daughter is now a widow
and your granddaughter an orphan.
What have you done with your scattered family?
And how have you slain three doves in one story?
This verse was not
really necessary. Forget about the refrain
and forget about being economical with the pain.
It’s all superfluous
like so much dross
The mist is darkness … a thick, white darkness
peeled by an orange, and a promising woman
The siege is lying in wait.
It is lying in wait on a tilted stairway
in the midst of a storm.
We are alone. We are alone to the point
of drunkenness with our own aloneness,
with the occasional rainbow visiting.
We have brothers and sisters overseas.
kind sisters, who love us.
who look our way and weep.
And secretly they say
“I wish that siege was here, so that I could”
But they cannot finish the sentence.
Do not leave us alone. No.
Do not leave us alone.
Our losses are between two and eight a day.
And ten are wounded.
Twenty homes are gone.
Forty olive groves destroyed,
in addition to the structural damage
afflicting the veins of the poem, the play,
and the unfinished painting.
In the alleyway, lit by an exiled lantern,
I see a refugee camp at the crossroads of the winds.
The south rebels against the wind.
The east is a west turned religious.
The west is a murderous truce minting the coinage of
As for the north, the distant north,
it is not a place or a geographical vicinity.
It is the conference of heavenly divinity.
A woman said to a cloud: cover my dear one,
for my clothes are wet with his blood.
If you are not rain, o dear one,
then be a tree,
fertile and verdant. Be a tree.
And if not a tree, o dear one
be a stone
laden with dew. Be a stone.
And if not a stone, o dear one,
be the moon itself
in the dreams of she who loves you. Be the moon itself.
[thus a woman said
to her son, in his funeral]
O you who are sleepless tonight, did you not tire
of following the light in our story
and the red blaze in our blood?
Did you not tire, you who are sleepless tonight?
Standing here. Sitting here. Always here. Eternally
we have one aim and one aim only: to continue to be.
Beyond that aim we differ in all.
We differ on the form of the national flag (we would
have done well if we had chosen
o living heart of mine, the symbol of a simple mule).
We differ on the words of the new anthem
(we would have done well to choose a song on the
marriage of doves).
We differ on the duties of women
(we would have done well to choose a woman to run the
We differ on proportions, public and private.
We differ on everything. We have one aim: to continue
After fulfilling this aim, we will have time for other
He said to me, on his way to jail,
“When I am released I will know that praise of nation
is like pouring scorn on nation…
a trade like any other!”
A little of the infinite blue
suffices to reduce the burden of our times
and cleanse the mud from this place right now
The spirit needs to improvise
and walk upon its silken soles
by my side, as hand in hand, two old friends
we share a crust of bread
and an old flask of wine
walking the path together,
then our days fork off into two separate paths:
I to the unknown, and she
sits squatting upon a high rock
[to a poet] Whenever the sunset eludes you
you are ensnared in the solitude of the gods.
Be “the essence” of your lost subject
and the subject of your lost essence. Be present in
He finds time for sarcasm:
My telephone has stopped ringing.
My doorbell has also stopped ringing.
So how did you know
that I am not here?
He finds time for song:
Waiting for you, I cannot wait
I cannot read Dostoyevsky
nor listen to Umm Kalthum, Maria Callas or another.
Waiting for you, the hands of the watch go from right
to a time without a place.
Waiting for you, I didn’t wait for you.
I waited for eternity.
He asks her, “What kind of flower is your favorite?”
She says, “The carnation. The black carnation.”
He asks her, “And where will you take me, with those
She says, “To the abyss of life within me.”
She says, “Further, further, further.”
This siege will endure until the besiegers feel, like
is an emotion like any other.
“I don’t love you. I don’t hate you,”
The prisoner said to the interrogator. “My heart is
of that which is of no concern to you. My heart is
full of the aroma of sage.
My heart is innocent, radiant, brimming.
There is no time in the heart for tests. No.
I do not love you. Who are you that I may give my love
Are you part of my being? Are you a coffee rendezvous?
Are you the wind of the flute, and a song, that I may
I hate imprisonment. But I do not hate you.”
Thus a prisoner said to the investigator. “My feelings
are not your concern.
My emotions are my own private night…
my night which moves from bed to bed free of rhyme
and of double meanings!
We sat far from our destinies, like birds
which build their nests in cracks in statues
or in chimneys, or in tents
erected on the prince’s path at the time of the hunt
On my ruins the shadows grow green
and the wolf sleeps on a hibernating poem,
dreaming, like me, and like a guardian angel,
that life is pure and free of label
Myths refuse to amend their patterns.
Perhaps they were struck by a crack in the hull;
perhaps their ships have been stranded on
a land without a people.
Thus the idealist was overcome by the realist.
But the ships will not change their mould.
Whenever an unpleasant reality crosses their path
they demolish it with a bulldozer.
The colour of their truth dictates the text: she is
white, without blemish.
[to a semi-orientalist] Let’s say things are the way
you think they are…
that I am stupid, stupid, stupid
and that I cannot play golf
or understand high technology
nor can fly a plane!
Is that why you have ransomed my life to create yours?
If you were another… if I were another
we would have been a couple of friends who confessed
our need for folly
But the fool, like Shylock the merchant,
consists of heart, and bread, and two frightened eyes
Under siege, time becomes a location
Under siege, place becomes a time
abandoned by past and future
This low, high land
this holy harlot…
we do not pay much attention to the magic of these
a cavity may become a vacuum in space
a contour in geography
The dead besiege me with every new day
and ask me, “Where were you? Give back
to the lexicon all the words
you offered me
and let the sleepers sleep without phantoms in their
The dead teach me the lesson: there is no aesthetic
The dead point out to me: why search beyond the
for the eternal virgins? We loved life
on earth, between the fig and the pine trees
but we couldn’t find our way even there. We searched
until we gave life all we owned: the purple blood in
The dead besiege me. “Do not walk in the funeral
if you did not know me. I seek no compliments
from man nor beast.”
The dead warn me. “Do not believe their rejoicing.
Listen instead to my dad as he looks at my photo
“How did you take my place, son, and jump ahead of me?
I should have gone first! I should have gone first!”
The dead besiege me. “I have only changed my place of
abode and my furnishings.
The deer now walk on my bedroom’s roof
and the moon warms the ceiling from the pain
thus putting an end to my pain
to put an end to my wailing.”
and the moon warms the ceiling
to put an end to my wailing.”
This siege will endure until we are truly persuaded
into choosing a harmless slavery, but
in total freedom!
To resist: that means to ensure the health
of heart and testicles, and that your ancient disease
is still alive and well in you
a disease called hope
in the remains of the dawn I walk outside of my own body
in the remains of the night I hear the footsteps of my
I raise my cup to those who drink with me
to an awakening to the beauty of the butterfly
in the long tunnel of this dark night
I raise my cup to those who drink with me
in the thick darkness of a night overflowing with
I raise my cup to the apparition in my being
[to a reader:] Don’t trust the poem
She is the absentee daughter. She is neither an intuition
nor a surmise, but a sense of disaster
If love is crippled, I will heal it
with exercise and humour
and with separating the singer from the song
My friends are ever preparing a party for me-
a farewell party, and a comfortable grave in the
shadow of the oak
together with a marble witness from the tombstone of time
But I seem to be first in attending their funerals.
Who has died today?
The siege is transforming me from a singer
to a sixth string on a five string violin
The deceased, daughter of
the deceased, who is herself daughter of the deceased,
who is the deceased’s sister
The deceased resister’s sister is related by marriage
to the mother of the deceased, who is granddaughter of
the deceased’s grandfather
and neighbor to the deceased’s uncle (etc., etc.)
No news worries the developed world,
for the time of barbarism has passed
and the victim is Joe Bloggs. Nobody knows his name,
and the tragedy, like the truth, is relative (etc., etc.)
Quiet, quiet, for the soldiers need
at this hour to listen to the songs
which the dead resisters had listened to, and have remained
like the smell of coffee, in their blood, fresh
Truce, truce. A time to test the teachings: can
helicopters be turned into ploughshares?
We said to them: truce, truce, to examine intentions.
The flavour of peace may be absorbed by the soul.
Then we may compete for the love of life using poétique images.
They replied, “Don’t you know that peace begins with oneself,
if you wish to open the door to our citadel of truth?
So we said, “And then?”
Writing is a small ant which bites extinction.
Writing is a bloodless wound.
Our cups of coffee, and the birds, and the green trees
with the blue shade, and the sun leaping from wall
to wall like a doe
and the waters in the skies of infinite shapes, in
what is left to us
of sky, and other matters the memory of which has been
put on hold
prove that this morning is strong and beautiful
and that we are guests of evermore.
Mahmoud Darwish is a widely known and popular Palestinian poet. He was born in Berweh, a village east of Acre, Palestine, in 1942. When the Israelis occupied his home in 1948, Darwish began to experience many forms of oppression. Early in life, Darwish became politically active through his poetry and involvement in the Israeli Communist Party, Rakah. He spent a period as the editor of Rakah’s newspaper, Al-Ittihad (Unity). Darwish’s political advocacy brought him a great deal of negative Israeli attention, which included harassment and house arrest. Finally, in 1971, after years of hardship, Darwish left Israel and fled into exile in Beirut, Lebanon. By this time, he had established and upheld an outstanding reputation as one of the leading poets of the resistance. Many of his poems have been converted to music in order to fuel the Palestinian defiance. The Arab population and the international community honor his poetic achievements. Among his accomplishments is the 1969 Lotus Prize and 30 compilations of poetry and prose.
Poem by Suzy Magloire-Sicard
I feel shortchanged!
When you cut classes, play hooky or
loiter in the train station
at the time when teachers already start
quizzing tomorrow’s spelling
I feel shortchanged!
How much does your tuition cost me? Me the taxpayer? Two thousands
three thousands maybe more than five thousands a year!
My health is getting foible and my bones weary.
I will need doctors, I will need lawyers,
nurses, scientists not to say more…
What will I do if you stay on the streets?
Who will take care of me?
I feel shortchanged!
What will you learn. cutting classes, playing hooky?
The streets teach just deceit
the gang’s way of life
always ends in
On the streets, you will learn to get high,
high on drugs
low on self-esteem!
On the streets, you will learn crimes
and evil ways
until you fall
with a shot in your
I feel shortchanged!
Look through the looking glass
see your future son, ten, fifteen, twenty,
thirty years from now.
Unless you change your ways,
what’s in your future kid?
it’s easy for you to say
“it ain’t your things”
but will you even live
to be father one day?
change your evil ways
rush back to the classroom.
For there and only
there does a bright future
No, you are not moving.
You feel fine on the streets.
You are home in the gang, you won’t
listen to me.
The graveyard’s attraction has put
a spell on you!
The pain of your mother and
your sister’s sorrow
seem to have any effect on you.
You are cursing me now,
I give up on you?
I feel shortchanged!
I feel short changed!
Poems By Doug Tanoury
Cloud Boulevard & Other Poems (May 2002)
When you return, come unnoticed,
Steal back silently late at night, and
Let your entrance be mostly unseen,
Without a trumpet voluntary
To mark the moment
And no grand polonaise,
But return like a tired worker
At the end of the midnight shift,
Moving slowly in the darkness,
Quiet, as not to awaken those who slumber
And dream deeply in metered respiration.
When you come back again,
Let your footsteps fall in the hallway, pianissimo,
Your shadow moving through the bedroom doorway
Just a bit ahead of you.
The nocturne of silhouetted movements as you undress
And clothes fall to the floor
With the muffled rustling of a bird taking flight,
The half-step inversion of you
Peeling back the bedspread and sheet
And your weight shifting on the mattress.
And I saw today with some surprise
How beauty is the cosmic currency,
A universal tender, that will valet park me
Near the main entrance of a higher consciousness,
That swings open doors wide
And buys Sunday brunch at 10:00 a.m.
At outdoor cafés opposite the beach,
Under a Catalina sky of blue silk,
Draped like a canopy over the green sea.
And I have come to know well
That some lessons are best learned slow,
The result of repeated study.
I have worked long like a dullard,
Drilled each detail into memory as an imbecile
And trained my eye on each liquid movement,
Graceful and poised, of bare arm and naked thigh,
How the mere hint of a wiggle in the ass
Is like a wad of cold hard cash.
I. Ode To April
And I recalled the opening line
Of Elliott’s Wasteland:
“April is the cruelest month”
And I think that somehow the same
Could be said of any month,
May, June, July,
And not to forget
November and December.
Indeed things green and things yellow
Are growing quite irrepressibly
And soon a hint of color will crawl up
The bare willows and upon the ash and maple
New foliage will sprout, modest at first,
But growing toward green crescendos.
I remember my grandfather
Was a modernist in his old age.
He would slip into spells of incoherence,
Utter words in odd tongues, not of European origin
But more exotic. On summer afternoons,
He would sit in the shade beneath a tree
And rest his back upon its bark and trunk
And sometimes in fragments,
More often in the gibberish of delirium,
Speak to me like Sybil.
I believe that Spring is strong
And April is not fragile but merely subtle.
Sprouts peek most shyly from the earth,
Green shafts against the black soil,
Tendril roots twisting down.
There is no cruelty in
Of modest beginnings
Or in the small starting of things.
He has closed his eyes and
Oh that I could awaken him,
Just grab his arm and say:
“Grandpa, wake up. You walked in the sun too long.”
He would open his eyes and look at me,
And mumble something in Arabic
That sounded slightly slurred
And wave his arm for me to go way,
To let him sleep.
The days grow longer and the light
Now streams in the big window
Just after sunrise, and April is the month
Of things sleeping and slow awakenings,
Of fragments that grow
Toward the fullness of meaning.
II. At Lake St. Clair
Fishing at Lake St. Clair today,
Alone on a long pier,
Just north of the power plant
Where the line of steel smokestacks,
The “Seven Sisters” dominate the sky,
And I always think them
The perfect classical form,
Tall and slender as they are,
Ionic columns left standing upright
Amid the rubble of some ruins
The water-tinted orange
In the first light after sunrise,
Its surface choppy and textured
As if painted on a canvas, pasted on thick
With the short pointed strokes of a palette knife,
And I recalled a fragment from long ago:
“White-capped waves sweep the lake —
My father’s dreams”
And me picking out with such care
Painted spoons of speckled green,
And a feathered jig with a chartreuse head.
For you know my grandfather was a modernist,
My father was a neo-romantic, but I,
I am a fisherman.
For the measure of a man I know
Is in pike and pickerel and perch.
III. Piano Sonata
Things are most pure in their beginnings,
As if time somehow tarnishes
Innocence and stains
The sweetest intentions.
It is the April of things, rather than their August,
That is most lovely,
Tendrils of hope
With roots that grip tenacious and deep,
The watercolor that seeps across
A sketch of charcoal landscape.
In the rain today
I found a faint trace of music,
A fragment of melody
That is the sound of a piano sonata,
Notes that resonated softly
And make me remember
Black and white summers
When I crossed the river on Macarthur Bridge,
On the surface of the water shining brightly,
The waves gleaming
Like schools of chrome minnows.
It is raining and I hear my grandfather’s footsteps
On each wooden step as he walks up the front porch,
I hear him stop to cough and then continue.
Memory is a fragmentary thing.
And I cannot simply decide
And struggle a great deal
And muse endlessly upon the troubling question:
Is it the April within us that God loves?
Or is the April within us God’s love itself?
It sometimes feels as if each word is a brick
And the space between each line, a layer of mortar,
That will dry slowly and harden with time,
For it is the simple rules of symmetry that apply
And a certain one up the other construction
That brings to lines a lightness and geometric grace
And to angles the sharp contrast of light and shadow
That is the secret of the pediment and pilaster
And the articulated magic of the cornice.
It is the one line written by Theodore Dreiser
“Who shall interpret the language of stones?”
That somehow endeared me to the man.
And I recall it often and whisper the question,
Sometimes half silent, Often out loud,
As I stand facing each new façade or run my hand
Against the cool smoothness of granite and
The sandy roughness of hewn limestone.
It is with shape and form, the building blocks
Of structure, that I speak to you now,
With plumb lines and yard long levels,
With rock cut and laid with precision,
With pigment mixed with plaster,
And with stone that is somehow budding
New foliage, flowering and beginning to bloom
And to grow to span the distance from earth to heaven.
In Pennsylvania coal country,
Near the Pocono’s,
Where far horizons rise to the sky,
I know that today the town of Hazelton
Is oddly still in the sunlight
Like a cat sitting on the window sill,
And Cloud Boulevard stretches greenly lush
With long lawns that lay before tall wood frame homes,
And it seems to me
That time advances with a lazy reluctance
On afternoons such as this in mid-May.
I have come to walk on Cloud Boulevard
And to remember my life here as a stranger,
A life lived
At what now seems a great distance away
From this coolness in the air
That I now breathe so deeply, and I stroll
Slowly to the East so that the late afternoon sun
Casts my long shadow on the sidewalk
And I pass down this street like a ghost,
Not so much as darkness, but rather,
More as an absence of light.
Words On The Road
On the road leading from town today,
My thoughts ranging on a rural landscape
Of barns in varying degrees of dereliction
And lean slightly to one side
Next to the perfect vertical of solos,
Some with domes and others without,
Against a background green of newly planted fields,
I thought of her, quite suddenly she came to mind,
Just the way she always does, with no more foreshadowing
Than a sunlit afternoon in late May,
And just barely, I heard the words, so silent,
They teetered on the threshold
Of audible perception,
And echoed in that nether region
That is not quite reality, where one would call it
Perhaps an aural hallucination,
A momentary confusion of the senses,
An illusion of a fleeting nature
That makes the wind seem to
Whisper, or the breeze
That would bend the tree limbs to
Mimic human speech and say
To me in a single breath,
No, more a hoarse exhale:
And remember the introspections and
Revelations that occur to a sole traveler
Upon a lonely stretch of road,
That makes even the most determined and resolute
Slow their pace or perhaps fully stop
And reflect on their destination and
Question for a moment their mission.
—Doug Tanoury © 2002
Doug Tanoury is primarily a poet of the Internet with most of his work never leaving electronic form. His verse can be read at électronique magazines and journals across the world. The greatest influence on Doug’s work was his 7th grade poetry anthology from Sister Debra’s English class: Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle And Other Modern Verses (Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders and Hugh Smith, © 1966 by Scott Foresman & Company) He still keeps a copy of it at his writing desk.
Visit Funky Dog Publishing at: www.funkydogpublishing.com/
Poem by Tontongi
Peace (dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001)
They were everywhere
fallen stars to nowhere
or disposable shield
in a desert war.
Each had a story
even the unrecognizable ones
each had a story
even those lost in the shambles.
By now the imperial glory
the jihad and the crusade
no longer mattered as concepts
it was real tears
Maria killed on a sunny day
her building blown away
Jaheed and Kaleb
soulful boys of thousand sins
were not allowed to be
not in such a rebellious way.
What that had taken years
of germination and care
disappeared in one fateful instant
B-52s in the sky
a human bomb lurking around
on a plane
on a bus
at the café’s terrace
a fateful instant
where hate meets mindlessness.
In her mind was his last smile
when the plane smashed onto the walls
Charlie would make everyone laugh
when the stress was too high
“fate is an attitude” he said
he perished in the ruins
alongside Jessica the light of the place.
Matildia had a unique style
cleaned the building with skills
she worked the graveyard shift
but returned the next day
with no obvious reasons
some said it was a special calling
from her Andes’ gods
her family drew wisdom from her lot
a calling is better than an unfair fate.
Massoud posed his rifle on the body
poor dead Rashid serving one more time
as a shield for war aims
Massoud didn’t like the task
but he was an anti-Taliban
he must fight with bravura
he was not a thinker
he was a fighter who will kill
and be killed
he was not a killer
but he believes in killing for honor
Johnny loved his country
right or wrong
he killed from the sky
but couldn’t sleep at night
V.A. wouldn’t pay his bills
he was such a good boy
he became a rebel with a cause.
Lassefa dreamed to act life
in dramatic configurations
her objective was Hollywood
land of wonders
she couldn’t find one reason
her people was hated
they were so nice in Apartheid confines
still she couldn’t stand the dirty looks
she left Haifa for New York
became a Broadway Queen
married a bohemian painter
got a 9 to 5 job in One WTC
to pay the bills for two
she died in the shambles
the skyjackers will never know
she was one of them in her soul.
Janehena couldn’t stay in school
the mullah’s edict was the law
there was nothing wrong with her
but that was the mullah’s edict
when the bombs fell
she prayed for the infidels
and embraced her rebels of brothers
Kabul was hers again
still something was missing forever.
Ahmed became a Fedayin
the day his parents left their home
a nice house with a garden
a nice house near a lake
he left all a sudden his friends
at mid-term of his music class
he returned with a bomb
and a new attitude
he wanted to liberate his land
but death was now his only course
death to the enemy
death of him by the enemy
would his dreams be made
a testimony or a curse?
The pain was everywhere
on their faces
and the tears as profuse
as the rain was absent
the dead divided as good dead
and bad dead
your dead deserve respect
and celebration for their unique valor
their dead are worthless corps
or evil cadavers;
let’s dream of a peace that will change
the non-sense to immanent decency.
The warriors will always find
reasons to fill the river of blood
it’s the survivors’ right to demand
a space to vision a new horizon
a new beginning.
Let’s all dream of a peace
where might doesn’t make right
a peace where no one losses
and where all will have won the right to be
a peace between the peoples
a peace to let it be.
—Tontongi, Boston, November 2001
Poem by Askia Touré
Nzingha Revisited (For the Woman / Black)
Mould me a face in
gleaming bronze, a rare one;
mobile, sensitive, strong.
Female and gentle with
Crown it with cornrowed hair;
adorn the ears with golden rings;
Place gentle, placid eyes
large beneath arching brows.
A beautiful, Afrikan
dreamy-eyed, lost in
Bathe her in the vermilion light of a
glowing sunset, shifting its colors to
canary horizons beneath tangerine skies.
She is walking at sunset,
in autumn, graced by the day’s
dying brilliance. A tall, radiant
beauty adorned with kente
robes above sandaled feet.
Though our setting is not
Afrika, but North America.
She is seed of the lost
tribes in Diaspora, who
formed a nation in the U.S. Southland.
This tall, radiant woman walking in autumn
is a living miracle: a testament
of a race’s drive for survival.
She is intelligent, artistic
lovely. She is modern,
dedicated to her people’s
freedom; educated to
know that it is a bitter,
She is determined that her children
will drink from cooling waters
of that freedom, and is sacrificing
to make that dream a reality.
She is buiding futures: organizing,
by example, how a sister
should conduct her life
in this age of the US
empire falling. She is
giving her all—her
life, honor, energy,
undying love—to make this
Black freedom blossom in the West.
Black man; working your shift,
fixing your car, walking your dog,
I didn’t mean to interrupt, but
a few words in passing. Please
know that she is the most vital,
precious glory of your life.
This woman was always
yours—from the slave-
ships to the hot
cottonfields and beyond. She is your dignity, and the only Afrika you’ll ever know!
Note to “Nzingha Revisited”: Nzingha. Queen of Matamba (modern Angola and Southwest Afrika) was one of the greatest and most successful guerilla warriors in history. Fighting the colonizing Portuguese in her region, she never lost a battle! Matamba remained free as long as this military genius lived.
Nòt Redaksyon: Li vèsyon kreyòl powèm sa a, kòmante e tradui pa Tontongi, nan Pwezi ann ayisyen.