I am feeling “artistically playful” tonight, so I have decided to string together and condense a seem of excerpts (the ones I found most powerful), from different parts of Ousmane Sembène’s “God’s Bits of Wood” (a favorite), into a poem. Call it artistic or not, I give credit to the man whose words I have only lifted and decided to juggle into a poem. I pray my poem does the spirit of the novel and the history it embodies, justice. Enjoy! ;D
God’s Bits of Wood
She had brought nine of
God’s bits of wood into the world
and her successive pregnancies had
made her dull and listless.
There was a sullen kind of fear,
mingled with hatred of this instrument
the white man could shut off
whenever they wished.
The whole system belonged to them,
from the water-purification plant
through the labyrinth of pipes
to the faucet on the fountain itself.
Real misfortune is not just a matter of
being hungry and thirsty;
it is a matter of knowing that
there are people who want you
to be hungry and thirsty and
that is the way it is with us.
The kind of man we were
and our only hope is in the machine
which knows neither a language
nor a race.
This strike is like a school,
for all of us.
Nothing is more damaging to our cause
than a worker who plays at being intellectual
and patronizes his own comrades …
We have punished some people
for what they have done,
but is that a good thing?
If you imitate the hirelings of your masters,
you will become like them,
hirelings and barbarians.
For godly men, it is a sacrilege to kill,
and I pray that God will forbid such a thought
to take root in your minds.
“Knowledge should not belong to children,
but to their elders”, Niakoro says.
The men have not consulted the women
and it is not the task of the women to urge them to go back.
They are men, and they know what they are doing.
Petit père says that
Men and women will be equal someday.
But the women must still eat,
and the children too.
These children will never have white hairs
Our world is falling apart.
a woman rose
and wrapped her cloth firmly around her waist and said,
“Today, I will bring back something to eat“.
And the men began to understand that
if the times were bringing forth
a new breed of men,
they were also bringing forth,
a new breed of women.
“Here is what we will have to eat today”,
Have any of you ever tasted a vulture?
It lives on carrion and offal,
but we can do the same thing!
We’ll eat it,
and at least we won’t starve.”
There are so many beautiful customs right here that,
there is no reason to bring in foreign ones –
especially when there is so much we still have to learn,
about things that can be useful to our country.
It is not up to us
to rebel against the will of God,
even when the reasons for that will
are a mystery to us.
Mehitabel Tori Markwei
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*Disclosure: I do not attempt to own the language of this poem and give all credit for the content to the author of the novel, Ousmane Sembène. I however reserve the right to this format of presentation*