The Colorado School of Medicine has published this piece in Volume 13 of the Human Touch Journal. If you are interested in this poem and others like it, you may read more in my new chapbook “Socdaal”. The link for purchase is under the poem. I hope you enjoy it.
You may ask me to repeat myself,
but must you furrow your brow?
I split my tongue to speak to you.
If you care to know, I’ll show you how.
Down the middle of this pink sponge, there are peacemakers.
They don’t have to work hard when the listener knows of laxoox and ghee,
but when it’s you,
this pink sponge expands and shoves against my teeth.
The sponge splits you see?
The left is sharp with its grammarian formalities,
and as for the right, well it retreats to familiarity,
to laxoox and ghee.
The two are not yet used to each other,
so they tangle and delay delivery.
The peacemakers will declare unity.
They will march down the middle
and pull from both the left and right forcefully
They will then sew the two so tight, you will not see the red that trickles,
but I will taste it, the iron, the trial, I will taste it.
When speaking to people like you I always do.
So, spare the furrowed brow just because you’re confused
I’ll repeat myself,
but don’t you forget,
I must split my tongue just to speak to you.
Waxaan gooste sanadka cusub inan af somaliga barto
I’ve decided that in the new year I will learn Somali
I’ve always had the desire to know the language of my people, but the inconvenience of asking my parents about grammatical nuances and struggling in pronunciation deterred me. Where and how would I even start? This isn’t a rhetorical question, starting with the basics would not work for me. I ‘d grow incredibly bored and consequently quit the whole effort.
So I’ve settled on a more sophisticated approach. Each morning, I jot down intriguing headlines from Somali BBC and translate it with one of my parents, whichever is awake at the time. I then think of my own phrase, one particularly relevant to my life, and I translate that as well. Google translate can be helpful but inaccurate, and it doesn’t convey the “woqooyi” dialect I prefer.
Below is a translation I did with Aabo this morning. The verse of this song personifies the new year. It is simply beautiful.
waan ku heybinaaye
ilaahey hakaa dhigo adna hogol
da’aysiyo habeen dhalad barwaaqiyo
I’ve been seeking you
May Allah make you a designated rain
That falls in the night bringing forth an abundance
Hogol is an enchanting word. It is not just describing any rain, rather hogol is like a sole cloud, releasing rain upon where it is most desired. It is rain that attends to the specific need of the chosen recipient.
…Perhaps it’s best that I only now begin to learn the language, for I can reflect upon and dissect the nuances that native speakers might undervalue in the mode of practicality.
P.s. It is January 1st, so happy birthday to the many Somalis who were “fortuitously” born on this day.
Peace and Blessings,