Reserving Judgment

by , on May 25, 2016

you do not even enter
an empty courtroom
with a voice
you take it off
and let it wait for you
by the doorstep
like a footwear

you do not even enter
an empty page
with an opinion
about what makes
a poem
you take it off
and let it wait for you
at the side of the desk
like a dictionary

later, perhaps, will
be a time for voice
later to check up
on definitions,
grammar
but for now, you
are alone
between the lines:

let your ink be
barefoot, let it
dance

 


Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet and the author of three poetry collections in English. He is also Poetry Editor for the online journal Expound.

Laura M Kaminski grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. More about her poetry is available in her interview with THE STRONG LETTERS.

The Old by Roden Noel (1834-1894)

by on Apr 1, 2016

They are waiting on the shore
  For the bark to take them home:
They will toil and grieve no more;
  The hour for release hath come.

All their long life lies behind
  Like a dimly blending dream:
There is nothing left to bind
  To the realms that only seem.

They are waiting for the boat;
  There is nothing left to do:
What was near them grows remote,
  Happy silence falls like dew;
Now the shadowy bark is come,
  And the weary may go home.

By still water they would rest
  In the shadow of the tree:
After battle sleep is best,
  After noise, tranquility.

///

Ferry-Luggage by Laura M Kaminski

I, too, stand upon this shore
  Barefoot, with my toes in foam:
I will need my shoes no more;
  I am only going home.

It is hard to hold in mind
  All the blessings I’ve received:
Every person who was kind
  Every comfort when I grieved.

I am waiting for the boat
  My hands filled with memories,
And my basket overflows
  With life’s generosities;
Will the boatman ferry me
  Though I have not come empty?

Time to leave this carnival,
  Curtsy deeply to the host;
Time to catch a ride back home:
  Barefoot; heart full; board the boat.

 


Laura M Kaminski grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. More about her poetry is available in her interview with THE STRONG LETTERS.

Untitled Sonnet by Alexander Smith (1853)

by on Mar 30, 2016

Sheath’d is the river as it glideth by,
Frost-pearl’d are all the boughs in forests old,
The sheep are huddling close upon the wold,
And over them the stars tremble on high.
Pure joys these winter nights around me lie;
‘Tis fine to loiter through the lighted street
At Christmas time, and guess from brow and pace
The doom and history of each one we meet,
What kind of heart beats in each dusky case;
Whiles startled by the beauty of a face
In a shop-light a moment. Or instead,
To dream of silent fields where calm and deep
The sunshine lieth like a golden sleep–
Recalling sweetest looks of Summers dead.

///

Here is my response to that sonnet, also untitled:

Beneath the shelter of a bridge, homeless
Families have gathered ’round a fire,
Flames lick through rusted sides of barrel, pyre
Of wrapping paper, Christmas detritus.
Looking at them might somehow indict us,
So we turn the corner, walk the next block
Fashionably festive, bound for joys,
Adorned in party garb, a laughing flock
Anticipating the exchange of toys.
Our procession is watched by two small boys
Who’ve wandered away, as children will do
Toward a source of something more exciting.
Some among us nod at them in greeting–
All of us subdued as we continue.

—Laura M Kaminski

 


Laura M Kaminski grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. More about her poetry is available in her interview with THE STRONG LETTERS.

Cosmology

by on Jan 15, 2016

When I was small, my world was flat
and the night sky was a basket, woven
from stripped leaves, uprooted grasses,

placed inverted over every space my
feet remembered at the end of day,

creating dark in which to sleep. But
I had my secret: I would peek through
this thatched lid, through small spaces

where fibers shifted, have my glimpse
of the beyond, the realm outside where

it was always daylight, always sunlit,
ever bright. I was too young yet to live
upon a globe, did not believe in what

my elders called the stars.

 


Laura M Kaminski grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor of Right Hand Pointing, and the author of several poetry collections, most recently Dance Here (Origami Books, an imprint of Parrésia Press Ltd, Lagos, Nigeria, 2015).

Sanyi

by , on Aug 12, 2015

Sanyi

Na tara hankali
a inuwan muryan ki
Ko zan gane
abun da ya sa
Muryan ki ya fi muryan iskan
damuna sanyi da dadi
A ko yaushe da ya sauka
A cikin zuciya na
Ya na gina aljana
Ko ya aka watsa mun wuta
Ba ya kona ni
Saboda son ki ya daura mun
Zanin ruwan sanyi

—Saddiq Dzukogi

 

Sanyi (translation)

I explore the shadow
of your voice, sift its
shade for meaning
that I might discover
how it is that it surpasses
the cool, sweet voice
of rainy season’s breeze,
how it descends, sinks
into the heart, and there
creates a paradise, a safe
oasis, where sparks that fly
cannot ignite us, fires
cannot consume us, because
your affection cools
and quenches, wraps us in
its protection, cloaks us
in fine fabric drenched
with cool, sweet water.

—trans., Laura M Kaminski

///

Notes on translation:
This is the first poem by another poet that I have translated from Hausa to English; prior to this, I have only translated my own. It was a struggle at first to find the way to carry the sense of relief and renewal that “sanyi” — “cold” — conveys in Hausa, because in English the idea of a person or heart being “cool” or “cold” implies something else entirely, an aloofness rather than refreshment. I hadn’t given much thought to how a word might differ so between tropical and temperate climates before engaging with this poem.

I was able to find my way when it finally occurred to me to double-translate “aljana” — to translate the word as “paradise” and then add the additional phrase “a safe oasis” to bring the remaining connotations along into the translated version. I then went back through and added phrases in a few other places to pick up the rest of the implied meaning that the direct word-for-word translation left behind, until I felt the sense of the poem was as complete in the English as in the original.

When I sent the translation to Saddiq, his response was: you captured even the dew on the grass of this poem. I hope so; a poem this beautiful should not be stripped of its dew — it must be brought in its entirety, or not at all.

 


Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet and the author of three poetry collections in English. He is also Poetry Editor for the online journal Expound. This is the first poem he wrote in Hausa, and he will be writing more.

Laura M Kaminski grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. More about her poetry is available at The Ark of Identity.

Hidden Flowers

by on May 19, 2015

 

as children we would
hide, remove our headscarves
in the shade of the mimosa
we picked vibrant pink blossoms,
threaded them into our braids

 


Laura M. Kaminski grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing; more about her poetry can be found at The Ark of Identity.

Holding the Moon

by on May 14, 2015

*
The child with a jar
is an emperor
in the eyes of other children
on a night filled with fireflies.

*
Fireflies are resilient
and even nature
is forgiving
when faced with a small boy holding
the moon in the palm of his hand.

 


Laura M. Kaminski grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing; more about her poetry can be found at The Ark of Identity.