Sudanese critic Lemya Shammat shares the poetry of Azhari Mohammad Ali as nationwide anti-austerity demonstrations continue across Sudan. As Shammat writes, “people have daringly chosen to risk their lives by flooding the streets to demonstrate and to have their voices heard”:
By Lemya Shammat
One of the most important characteristics of the poetry of Azhari Mohammad Ali is its tone is its simplicity and its sensitivity to the small details of everyday life, as well as its spontaneous involvement in the minute details of adversity, misery, and worry.
From which street can I reach you
when all paths are soiled
with viscous muck,
I’ll overstep all barriers to enter
through your words,
amid your pores I’ll pass
by any common denominator
any suggestion of resemblance
I’ll get in…
A drizzle of bullets to the head
of a damaged, corrupted power
will not dissuade or discourage the people —
if the desired turns are blocked
by the state of bullets, if many tents are installed
for the President’s Special Guards
covered in its vestments:
an affable and soulful youth was
saved for such a tumultuous day.
In your nightmarish darkness,
he saw the ruins of Soba* —
he watched a home being trampled —
with his blindfolded eyes
on a callous hard day,
everything plunged into chaos.
He was compelled to throw his notebook
so he bent to lift up a brick,
and could see the sniper’s beard
soaked in his own blood
The hardships of daily living represent an inexhaustible raw material for Azhari’s poetry that chooses to mirror the day-to-day circumstance and concerns, with its grievously taxing kinks and twists, as he writes with the dynamic memory of the people, with their breath and daily junctures.
We opened your door, homeland
for those who meant to enter,
and those who want to leave,
and we tied your name to melancholy,
fear and silence, and to a lump in the throat.
Our hopes in you are lost in vain.
*Soba is the former capital of the medieval Nubian kingdom of Alodia also known as Alwa. It was totally destroyed and replaced by Sinnar.
Essayist, short-story writer, and critic Lemya Shammat has a PhD in English Language and Linguistics from Khartoum University and is an Assistant Professor at King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A member of the Sudanese Writers Union, Shammat has published a book on literary criticism and discourse analysis as well as a collection of short-short stories. She also translates between English and Arabic.
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