Home » Blog » The Strange Affair of Robin S. Ngangom by Robin S. Ngangom

The Strange Affair of Robin S. Ngangom by Robin S. Ngangom

Not once can I say

I am the captain

behind this wheel of fire.

I remember misplacing

a bronze bell

somewhere, sometime.

I left behind many untended hearths.

Rushing back I discovered

something had changed me.

I can say

I am this or that,

that I envied the character

of water and stone.

that I envied the character

of water and stone.

As a boy I was made a sheep,

now I am enchanted into a goat

that the townspeople

enjoy driving to the square

with a marigold garland

between my hornş.

At twenty-four

I invited myself to Bohemia.

The kingdom of Art,

where people never grow old,

was my affable neighbour.

Moved by curiosity,

I found myself lingering

at backstages, where painted girls

and poor blind boys

came to do their parts.

In the evenings now,

I often mix my drink with despair.

Love, of course, made me entirely useless.

This is the story of my people.

We sowed suspicion in the fields.

Hatred sprang and razed the crops.

Now they go to gloating (glorying) neighbours,

begging bowls in hand,

fingers pointed at each other.

Their incessant bickering (backbiting)

Muffles (quiets) all pity.

Our intentions are clear.

Slash (Tear) and burn,

let fire erase all traces,

so that suspicion cannot write

our murderous history.

Somewhere inside the labyrinth

we met, locked horns, and

went our feuding ways.

Our past, we believe, is pristine

even as we reaped heads and took slaves.

When we re-write make-believę history

with malicious intent,

memory burns on a short fuse.

As boys return to Christmas,

escorted by hate and fear,

they take a circuitous route

to outwit an enemy

who will revel too much in the birth

of a merciful son. When these boys

reach home, their dreams will come

dressed in red.

II

Hands filled with love,

I touched your healing breasts.

Like the beaten-up past

scars appeared on your body.

I ask, who branded the moonskin of my love?

Who used you like a toy doll?

And my hands returned to me

stigmatised with guilt.

When I turn with a heavy heart

towards my flaming country,

the hills, woman, scream your name.

Soldiers with black sçarves (mufflers)

like mime artists

turn them in seconds into shrouds.

For the trucks carrying

the appliances of death and devastation,

for the eager rescuer in his armoured car,

for the first visitor to the fabled homeland,

the graves of youths who died in turmoil

are the only milestones to the city.

But the hills lie draped (dressed) in mist.

Instead of the musk of your being

I inhale the acrid smoke

of gelignite (explosive) and pyres.

With cargoes of sand and mortar

Mammon came to inspect the city.

He cut down the remaining trees

and carried them away

like cadavers (corpses) for dissection.

Morning papers like watered-down milk

sell the same bland items:

rape, extortion, ambushes (traps), confessions,

embezzlement, vendetta (campaign), sales,

marriages, the usual.

There is talk on the streets,

in dark comers, in homes, words

caught by the ears of a restaurant.

We honour the unvarying certainty,

and pay routine homage to silence.

Everyone has correctly identified

the enemy of the people.

He wears a new face each morning,

and freedom is asking yourself

if you are free, day after sullen (morose) day.

III

Uprightness is not caressing (touching) anything publicly,

Integrity is not drinking,

Worthiness is contributing generously to a new faith

to buy guns for unleashing (set free) ideological horror,

Service is milking the state

and when you can lift no more

to start burgling each other

so that we can become paragons of thievery,

Chastity is forbidding our women

from exposing their legs,

Purity is not whispering

even a solitary word of love

so that it will not be mistaken

for unpardonable obscenity.

Nothing is certain:

oil

lentils

potatoes

food for babies

transport

the outside world.

Even fire water and air

are slowly becoming commodities.

Patriotism is the need of the hour.

Patriotism is preaching secession

and mourning our merger with a nation,

patriotism is honouring martyrs

who died in confusion,

patriotism is declaring we should

preserve native customs and traditions,

our literature and performing arts,

and inflicting them on hapless peoples,

patriotism is admiring

the youth who fondles grenades,

patriotism is proclaiming all men are brothers

and secretly depriving my brother,

patriotism is playing the music of guns

to the child in the womb.

Stones speak, the hills speak

when we finally fall silent.

History, hunch-backed friend,

why do we fear you,

why do we love, hate, lie,

conceal, merely to enact you

in the coarse theatre of time?

IV

Today, I stand alone and acknowledge

the left-handed gift of a man

without a woman, and

a tiny land bound by fire.

Slave to an unexamined life

all that I’ve done

I’ve accomplished blindfolded:

love, fear, anger, and old despair.

The penitent (repentant) year wears sackcloth

and pours ashen leaves on its head,

the sky’s dress is in shreds.

When stars appear, they hold up the sky

like nuts and bolts so that

the firmament will not fall.

But we who sleep under these stars

will not let each other dream.

Love is also a forgotten word.

The ability to suffer, and the ability

to inflict the utmost hurt

on the person you love most,

this is how I’ve known it.

The festival of lights

happened during childhood.

Today, I’m again with widows

who cannot light lamps anymore.

Maybe the land is tired.

of being suckled on blood,

maybe there is no peace

between the farmer and his fields,

maybe all men everywhere

are tired of being men,

maybe we have finally acknowledged death.

My love, how can I explain

that I abominate (hate) laws

When I am gone

I would leave you these:

a life without mirrors, and

the blue ode between pines

between pines and the winter sky.

But where can one run from the homeland,

where can I flee from your love?

They have become pursuing prisons

which hold the man

with criminal words.

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