Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Kwame Dawes

AFRICAN POSTMAN

DE AFRIKAANSE POSTBODE

Oostelijk van Addis Abeba, en dan zuidwaarts
diep de Riftvallei in, hoor ik de hoorns
schetteren over de vlakkruinige acacia’s,
zie ik Afrikaanse vrouwen buigen met hout
zwaar op hun rug, en de koeien, geiten,
ezels, muildieren, schapen en paarden geklakt
tot gehoorzame kudden door rennende kinderen,
langs de weg lopen. Het leven gebeurt hier.
Ik reis naar het land waarover ik hoorde,
Shashemene*, de groene plek, vijf morgen
goedertierenheid van Jah, en ik weet nu dat
ik de wortelman wil horen vertellen hoe,
bij alle geruchten over zijn sterven, de rasta
voortrijdt, blijft staan in de velden van eer
om vast te houden aan het geloof van ’t wortelvolk.
Broeder Solomon, jij zet de naam Ephraim
op je hoofd en draagt het gezicht van de ware
rasta, dat van een Ashantikrijger, de ogen diep
onder zware leden, en je huid strak als leer,
zwarter dan zwart. Ik heb je eerder ontmoet
in de straten van Kingston, daar waar je wandelde
naar het sissen en lasteren van de heiden, jij,
rasta, die de gebroken geest der mensen verzamelt
in je kalebas. Jij draagt het allemaal, zegt hun:
Keer terug naar de wortels, genezing zal geschieden.
Je bent de stem van Burning Spear in de teff-velden,**
je verhaalt me van de profetie van Marcus,
en ik luister naar jou, door de rust,
door de barsheid van je stem, dan plotseling
wanneer ik vraag over het sterven van de Keizer,
rijs je op als een staf der berisping, je stem
reikt terug tot de bergen, je krijger-
gedaante, je tuinmangrootheid, en je spreekt
een mysterie van wie oren hebben maar niet horen,
wie ogen hebben maar niet zien, en ik weet
dat deze rasta op een dag zal staan
in deze grond, en dat zijn voeten zullen wortelen,
dat de aarde spoedig zal donkeren voor de komst
van Solomon. Laat de heidenen tieren, de twijfelaars
schimpen, laat deze Ghanese jongeling wiens ogen
het gelaat van Jezus Christus zagen, laat ook hem
neerzitten vol verwondering over het geloof van de rasta.
Want deze Afrikaanse postbode verliet
vader en moeder, en verscheen daarop
voor Zijne Keizerlijke Majesteit, om alleen hem
Vader te noemen, opdat de Vader hem zoon zou noemen,
en de wereld haar vermoeide mars zal voorzetten,
en de ibissen zullen duiken in de Ethiopische schemering
en de rook zal oprijzen van houtvuren,
en de nacht zal komen met nieuws dat de wortel-
man, nadat hem vierhonderd jaar lang verteld is
dat hij geen huis heeft, is thuisgekomen, ja, dat Jah
is thuisgekomen.
 
Zonen en dochters van Zijne Keizerlijke Majesteit Haile Selassie,
Gerechtig Heerser over de Aarde, zeg zonder verontschuldiging:
Dit is de tijd dat ik en ik en ik thuis moet komen,
Ja, Jah . . . Nah leggo! Nah leggo! Nah leggo!***
                        Winston Rodney

AFRICAN POSTMAN

East from Addis Ababa, and then south
deep into the Rift Valley, I can hear the horns
trumpeting over the flat-roofed acacia trees,
see African women bend low with wood
heavy on their backs, and the cows, goats,
donkeys, mules, sheep, and horses snapped
into obedient herds by sprinting children,
move along the roadside. Life happens here.
I am travelling to the land I have heard about,
Sheshemane, the green place, five hundred acres
of Jah’s benevolence, and I know now that
I long to hear the rootsman tell me how,
despite rumours of his passing, the natty
keeps on riding, keeps on standing in the fields
of praise to hold onto the faith of roots people.
Brother Solomon, you put the name Ephraim
on your head and carry the face of the true
Rasta, the face of an Ashanti warrior, eyes deep
under heavy lids, and your skin tight as leather,
blacker dan black. I have met you before
on the streets of Kingston, there where you trod
to the hiss and slander of the heathen, you,
natty dread, gathering the people’s broken minds
into your calabash. You carry it all, tell them
Return to the roots, the healing shall take place.
You are Burning Spear’s voice in the fields of teff,
you tell me of the prophecy of Marcus,
and I listen to you, through the phlegm,
through the gruff of your voice, then suddenly
when I ask about the passing of the Emperor,
you rise up like a staff of correction, your voice
reaching back to the mountains, your warrior
self, your yardman greatness, and you speak
a mystery of those who have ears but won’t hear,
who have eyes and won’t see, and I know
that this dread will one day stand
in this soil, and find his feet growing roots,
that soon the earth will be darker for the arrival
of Solomon. Let the heathen rage, let the doubters
scoff, let this Ghanaian youth whose eyes
have seen the face of Jesus Christ, let him too
sit and marvel at the faith of the natty.
For this African Postman has forsaken
father and mother, and has come to stand
before His Imperial Majesty, to call only him
Father, so that the Father might call him son,
and the world will carry on its weary march,
and the ibises will swoop in the Ethiopian dusk
and the smoke will rise from wood fires,
and the night will come with news that the roots-
man, after four hundred years of being told
he is homeless, has come home, yes, Jah,
has come home.
 
Sons and daughters of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie,
Earth Rightful Ruler, without any apology say:
This is the time when I and I and I should come home,
yes, Jah . . . Nah leggo! Nah leggo! Nah leggo!
Winston Rodney
Close

AFRICAN POSTMAN

East from Addis Ababa, and then south
deep into the Rift Valley, I can hear the horns
trumpeting over the flat-roofed acacia trees,
see African women bend low with wood
heavy on their backs, and the cows, goats,
donkeys, mules, sheep, and horses snapped
into obedient herds by sprinting children,
move along the roadside. Life happens here.
I am travelling to the land I have heard about,
Sheshemane, the green place, five hundred acres
of Jah’s benevolence, and I know now that
I long to hear the rootsman tell me how,
despite rumours of his passing, the natty
keeps on riding, keeps on standing in the fields
of praise to hold onto the faith of roots people.
Brother Solomon, you put the name Ephraim
on your head and carry the face of the true
Rasta, the face of an Ashanti warrior, eyes deep
under heavy lids, and your skin tight as leather,
blacker dan black. I have met you before
on the streets of Kingston, there where you trod
to the hiss and slander of the heathen, you,
natty dread, gathering the people’s broken minds
into your calabash. You carry it all, tell them
Return to the roots, the healing shall take place.
You are Burning Spear’s voice in the fields of teff,
you tell me of the prophecy of Marcus,
and I listen to you, through the phlegm,
through the gruff of your voice, then suddenly
when I ask about the passing of the Emperor,
you rise up like a staff of correction, your voice
reaching back to the mountains, your warrior
self, your yardman greatness, and you speak
a mystery of those who have ears but won’t hear,
who have eyes and won’t see, and I know
that this dread will one day stand
in this soil, and find his feet growing roots,
that soon the earth will be darker for the arrival
of Solomon. Let the heathen rage, let the doubters
scoff, let this Ghanaian youth whose eyes
have seen the face of Jesus Christ, let him too
sit and marvel at the faith of the natty.
For this African Postman has forsaken
father and mother, and has come to stand
before His Imperial Majesty, to call only him
Father, so that the Father might call him son,
and the world will carry on its weary march,
and the ibises will swoop in the Ethiopian dusk
and the smoke will rise from wood fires,
and the night will come with news that the roots-
man, after four hundred years of being told
he is homeless, has come home, yes, Jah,
has come home.
 
Sons and daughters of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie,
Earth Rightful Ruler, without any apology say:
This is the time when I and I and I should come home,
yes, Jah . . . Nah leggo! Nah leggo! Nah leggo!
Winston Rodney

AFRICAN POSTMAN

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère