“If you split, you will break.”

I’ve been taking advantage of my extra preproduction time to do more research and character development for Sweet, Sweet Country. No point in letting the time go to waste.  My main character and her family are Somali. In the last week I’ve gone back and read a ton of Somali poetry. And when I say ton, I mean a ton. Somalia is known as the nation of poets, after all.

I really love Stand Together. The poem in the video exemplifies the Somali oral tradition. You can listen to the full poem below.

Here is a poem and a fraction of another poem from An Anthology of Somali Poetry, Translated by B.W. Andrzejewski with Sheila Andrzejewski.

OLD AGE
Raage Ugaas
19th Century Pastoralist

Once I wore a fine russet cloak
And carried a shield of rhinoceros hide.
I was looked upon with admiration
As one of the best of humankind –
Is this not so?

Then my spine grew short and my back grew bent,
And did it not come to pass
That I had to stop and rest for the night
On a journey so short that shouting voices
Could have spanned the distance?
On the roads that are trodden by families on the move
I am passed by everyone along the way.
My weapons are all surrendered now
And my hand grasps nothing but a stick –
Is this not so?

The men begotten by men whom I myself begot
Withhold the support that is my due –
The women whom I married now wish me dead.

“Give me food!” I shout – do I not? – weeping like child.
The shameful things against which I used to guard myself
Have now descended on me, as clear as the light of day –
Is this not so?
—–

WHAT WILL COME NEXT?
Ismaacil Mire 1860-1951

In ill-famed houses girls are led into sin
And something even more disgraceful happens –
They are made to pay for their keep themselves.
O Everlasting God, what will come next?
This must be the last era of the world!

….

Wives reject their husbands, they refuse to stay at home –
Off they all go in pursuit of money from other men.
O Everlasting God, what will come next?
This must be the last era of the world!

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