THE POEM THAT PUT SOMALIA ON THE MAP

Prof. M. S. Togane

A stone cast
Falls close by
But a word cast
Courses around the world
Forever.

—A Somali saying

You are not gonna live forever
So leave
Some bonbons
Some bons mots
Behind.

— A Somali saying

Here is the poem

That put Somalia on the literary map of the world

Here is the poem

That immortalized Arfaye

Here is the poem

That made Togane more famous than the town

The Japanese named Togane

After Togane’s father

Here is the poem

That proved

The Faith of Hawa Isse Alasow

In her son Togane

When she broadcasted

When she baramburred her ode

When her love for her son

Boss-teye

The champ that chews up chumps

When he chows down

When her love for her son

Bubbled over

Wixii buug dhigi jire waa ka wada baqen:

All those who once penned books

Are panicking now

Because of Boss-teye!

Here is the poem that

Gilbert H. Muller

Of the City University of New York

John A. Williams

Of Rutgers University

Put in their book

Called

Bridges: Literature across Cultures
To pay homage

To the lyrical legacy of the Somali race

Here is the poem

That students across the world

Now mark and study and copy

In their notebooks

Here is Arfaye

The metaphor of Mogadishu

Mister Mogadishu

When Mogadishu was no mean city:


ARFAYE

A man without a nickname is like a goat without horns.

—A Somali saying

Arfaye: the sweet-smelling one

Fattest Somali

In the city of Mogadishu

City without deodorants

Everybody knows his nickname

And the irony that sweetens the truth

Nobody knows his real name

I can see him now

In my mind’s eye

In the middle of Main Street

In the frying sun

Melting away

About to drown

In his sweaty khaki uniform

Flinging sweat away from his eyes

Trying to direct a traffic of stubborn donkeys

Skittish camels

(Impatient drivers poking their behinds)

Hauling grass and milk

Donkey-carts driver by heedless drivers

Who claim the city belongs to their clan and donkeys

Goats

Sheep

Cattle

All on their way to the slaughterhouse

Jay walkers

Paraplegic beggars scuttling on all fours

(An American nicknamed them spidermen)

Beeping Fiats and thunder-farting ancient Mussolini trucks without mufflers

Out of this medley

Sometimes

A relief

A release

Would appear

Quivering breasts of a careless bushwoman

Or some undulating steatopygous behind

Then

Arfaye would pause

Tilt his head

In worshipful wonder

Flash a smile

And throw darts of desire.