I love this poem. It illustrates the disenfranchised status of Somali women in the Diaspora. Powerful verses that sink to the depths of your being. The Somali woman here – all alone in a thankless marriage, struggling and in her eternal prison – is heading for madness. She’s often seen talking to herself, pushing a pram, trailed by several children, dishevelled and heavily medicated. A prisoner of her anguish, her failed dreams. It explains the increasing number of Somali women with mental health problems, the spike in dysfunctional families and the skyrocketing number of single mothers.
What it does not explain is why we choose to endure this nightmare? Why we choose martyrdom over freedom? Why we choose enslavement over love? I applaud the brave women who chose otherwise. The women who chose the well-being of their children over conformity. The brave ones who refused to settle for a boy as a man. Who refused to be chattels.
These men let themselves down, bask in their guilt,
harm themselves then start griping;
they’ve let judgement and tradition go.
Gums busy with khat, like the poisonous Ganboor plant,
idling in grim flats strewn with litter,
gloating about unreal gallantry,
this man fails to know gifts bring responsibility –
he’s given up his wife and his family,
stopped being the one who gets food and necessities.
As a genuine mother she suffers agonies,
her family torn by the godless, split by social services,
unable to sleep, goaded by worries,
expecting no guidance, no partner by her side,
she feels so shattered and gripped by thoughts
and bad memories, she grieves until dawn
and raises her arms, prays for Allah’s goodwill.
After the school-run, a gruelling list of tasks –
grappling with his duties too, which he’s neglected.
She goes shopping, her cupboards gravely empty,
gets back in her car with just the essentials.
There is always gaping hunger; some days she can’t walk.
She struggles to find a pan or grill some food
and when late afternoon grimly darkens
she must gather her children home,
like the kudu or gazelle she roams alone.
She can’t stop some of her young ones going out –
she is a bustard, caught in grinding groaning rain,
always on guard while others rest,
numbly enduring until a new day glares.
Such gloom could lead me astray. Instead I’ll conclude:
struggling mother who gets no gratitude,
mother with no male guardians,
only Gracious God knows our fate.
He alone can judge this generation –
justice is whatever he wants, and whatever we get.
I cannot order these men gunned down as they deserve
or that their relatives gird them to an ant-infested tree.
I am resigned to wait for that glorious, final day.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Said Jama Hussein
The final translated version of the poem is by Clare Pollard
Accessed on http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/327/Recollection