“The Killing of the She-Camel” by Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame

Flag of Somalia

Last week, Somalia lost one of its greatest poets, Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame. Affectionately called Hadraawi, which means the “master, or father of speech”, Warsame was regarded as a pillar of modern Somali literature and a strong advocate for peace and democracy. In 1973, he spent 5 years in jail because he spoke against the revolution led by then president Siad Barre; this resulted in his work getting banned. Despite censure, Warsame remained undeterred and continued his work, composing poetry upon his release, songs, and verses. The poem, “The Killing of the She-Camel” led to his imprisonment without trial. In the 1990s, he called for an end of the civil war which has destroyed the country, and displaced countless people. Last week, Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said “Poet Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadraawi) was a symbol of unity and peace,”… “He was one of key pillars of Somalia’s art and literature who took a leading role in preserving the Somali culture and promoting the Somali language. His death is felt in every Somali household.

Is there a better way to celebrate the life of Hadraawi than to share this poem? Against corruption, disrespect of the human condition, and nepotism,  Warsame says, “Never will I ever accept a single insulting slide from those grasping commissars…” For his everlasting fight for justice, he says “Until the grave’s prepared… I’ll keep rallying and calling until the Day of Judgment.” Enjoy The Killing of the She-Camel (Hal La Qalay) by Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame, translated to English by Said Jama Hussein and Maxamed Xasan ‘Alto’.

Hal la qalay raqdeedaa

    Hal la qalay raqdeedaa

     Lagu soo qamaamoo

     Qalalaasihii baa

     Nin ba qurub haleeloo

     laba waliba qaybteed

     Qorraxday ku dubatoo

     Qoloftiyo laftiibaa

     Lagu liqay qallaylkee

     Qosol wuxuu ka joogaa

     Qubannaa danbeeyee

     Weli qaba hamuuntee

     Buuraha qotada dheer

     Ka arkaaya qiiqee

     Qarka soo jafaayee

 

     Qalwadii masbaa galay

     Qodax baase hoos taal

     Fule quudhsigii diid

     Geesi qoorta soo dhigey

     Faras qaayihiisii

     Qurux buu ku doorsaday

     Qabqab dhaafay baa yimi

     Qosol qoonsimaad noqoy

     Qabyo waa halkeedii

 

     Qarandidu libaaxbay

     Ku qadhaabataayoo

     Soo qabo tidhaahdaa

     Qaankiyo biciidkoo

     Qaybtana shanlaabay

     Qoondeysataayoo

     Isagnaa qorshaha guud

     Qanjidhkiyo xumaystay

     Ha qawedin tidhaahdaa

     Aarkuna ma quustoo

     Ma qarsado xanuunkee

     Hadba qaran jabkiisiyo

     Qiirada xasuustuu

     Kolba dibin qaniinaa

 

     Qalwadii masbaa galay

     Qodax baase hoos taal

     Fule quudhsigii diid

     Geesi qoorta soo dhigey

     Faras qaayihiisii

     Qurux buu ku doorsaday

     Qabqab dhaafay baa yimi

     Qosol qoonsimaad noqoy

     Qabyo waa halkeedii

 

     Weligay cad quudheed

     Anna qaadan maayoo

     Qalanjadan faraa dheer

     Wax la qaybsan maayee

     Bal inay qabuuruhu

     Saddex-qayd ka maarmaan

     Ama qoor-tal jeexaan

     Labadaas mid quudhaan

     Xilka qaawan saaraan

     Hadba qaylo-doon baan

     Ka horow qiyaamaha

     Ku qulaamin maydkee

     Aan qoofallaadee

     Qarqarsiga ha iga furin.

 

     Qalwadii masbaa galay

     Qodax baase hoos taal

     Fule quudhsigii diid

     Geesi qoorta soo dhigey

     Faras qaayihiisii

     Qurux buu ku doorsaday

     Qabqab dhaafay baa yimi

     Qosol qoonsimaad noqoy

     Qabyo waa halkeedii

 

The Killing of the She-Camel (Hal La Qalay) 

 

How they came rushing to that place

   Where the carcass of the she-camel lay,

    and what a commotion there was

as each caught at her flesh

    pair by pair clawed off their share

    frying it in the glare of the sun

    and cramming down dry

    its crisp skin, crunching the bones.

    You’d bare your teeth too to see

    their scattered followers come

    still cramped with greed, ravenous

    at seeing the smoke ascend

    from the colossal mountain’s top,

    scrambling up cliffs and ravines.

        

    The snake sneaks in the castle:  

    Although it’s carpeted with thorns

     still the coward casts off his curses

     so the courageous must stretch out his neck;

     the cob stallion sells his values

     in order to cut a fine figure.

    When such cockiness struts forth

     and even laughter becomes a crime

     our country has unfinished business.

 

    When the aardvark tells the lion

    how it’s supposed to hunt

    and orders it, ‘Go catch

    the young camel and the oryx’;

    then carves five times its share

    setting this aside

    while granting for the lion’s role

    glands and offal,

    commanding it, ‘Don’t quibble,’

    the lion can’t cave in

    and doesn’t hide its hurt

    but now and then remembering

    the loss of its prestige

    it bites its lip in bitterness.

 

    The snake sneaks in the castle:

     although it’s carpeted with thorns

     still the coward casts off his curses

     so the courageous must stretch out his neck;

     the cob stallion sells his values

     in order to cut a fine figure.

     When such cockiness struts forth

     and even laughter becomes a crime

     our country has unfinished business.

 

     Never will I ever accept

     a single insulting slice

     from those grasping commissars –

     I won’t share a thing with them.

     Until the grave’s prepared

     to forego its three yard shroud 

     or a collar round the neck,

     since one at least is needed

     to cover the naked dead,

     I’ll keep rallying and calling

     until the Day of Judgement,

     pray my cries can comfort the dead:

     tie me to this task, and don’t 

     release me from its harness.

 

     The snake sneaks in the castle:

     although it’s carpeted with thorns

     still the coward casts off his curses

     so the courageous must stretch out his neck;

     the cob stallion sells his values

     in order to cut a fine figure.

     When such cockiness struts forth

     and even laughter becomes a crime

     our country has unfinished business.

 

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