Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Neene and other poems— Abdoul Ali War

Jul 15, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments




Where am I from?

From what distant land

Seed thrown to the wind

Sown by whom


On this land where we toil so?


Will I return to these places I do not know 

To give account? To what? To whom?

A mission? The meaning of my life?


I have doubts, fears sometimes

And certainties so uncertain

Face beaten time and time again


Where am I from?

Where will I return?

When? And the answers 

To all my questions?




Mama’s gone

Just as she came


On her tiptoes

Mama’s gone

Hit by the mad horse

Galloping along


On shores

No one ever returns from

Mama’s gone


To the land of great mystery

Where there are no questions

Mama’s gone 

Put alone at the bottom of a pit


Mama’s gone


Never will she gently gaze

Upon me again


Mama’s gone


Who will sponge my forehead

Wipe away the bitter sweat of life


The clash of gladiators

The whirlwinds of the world

The convulsions of the earth

The tragedies of the planet

Mama didn’t know any of this


Mama left


Just as she came

To birth me

And mother me

Mama’s gone

Her mission done


Mama’s gone

Never to return

Put in a hole

Then abandoned


Mama never knew


Was it so bad

If she didn’t know about

The gladiatorial clash

The whirlwinds of this world

The crashing of the earth

The tragedies of the planet

The world is like that

Could she know everything


But Mama knew she’d just came

To bring me into the world

And give me a mother’s love






Jackals or hyenas! 

These strange beasts lived so so far away

Indifferent, echoes came back to us

Weak they were No worries because

These beasts were far away, and sometimes devoured each other 


First there came one

Then one by one

This is how they do things 

Then came two, then two by two

Which began to howl 

All together and softly 

These beasts wanted to be worse than anything

“Fathers mothers don’t count

Today is meaningless

Everything is drowned in moving dunes

All lost in the forest of confusion”

Said these hyenas when they entered.


Forgetful we tolerated them

“You’ll cover your heads with a kippah

hang the cross around your neck 

rub in henna to redden your beards 

Grill your faces 

Delivered from temptation now”.


Then came three by three, twenty by twenty

That spread like quackgrass

When all these beasts entered 

No one could go out anymore


And the hymn all these beasts intoned rang out mournfully


“We’ll deal with the manure We have expert hands 

The seeds will sprout, the green hills will bloom

Today doesn’t count Tomorrow it’ll all be more beautiful”.


Their words were high and mighty, sometimes very flowery

All we heard was the grim song of those who do not love life


All these beasts howled even louder 

From all sides

And all at the same time


Their maws revealed fangs

They machine-gunned in the dark night 

Unservile and sometimes even suspect shadows


“What’s life worth? Nothing. Offer oneself to death

If tomorrow green hills bloom!”


The dark stain of the pack advances interminably

Softly then noiselessly

The brown stain of the pack with their fangs

Spreads without mercy…

A huge cloud of fear floats

Right above heads that bend and bend 

Will the rain of shame fall much longer?

What hyenas these jackals are!!


Also, read A Dream Talk and Other Poems by Usham Rojio, translated from the Manipuri by the poet, and published in the Antonym:

A Dream Talk & Other Poems— Usham Rojio

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Abdoul Ali War

Abdoul Ali War

Born in 1951 in Bababé, Mauritania, Abdoul Ali War lives in France where he studied cinema. After a brief stint at Radio Afrique, he was a contributor to “Panorama” at France Culture. He has mainly worked with Med Hondo as an assistant film director. He also co-adapted, with him, Abdoulaye Mamani’s novel Sarraouina (Éditions L’Harmattan). His third poetry collection is J’ai égaré mon nom, Éditions Obsidiane, after the publication of Demain l’Afrique and poems that appeared in the anthology Poésie d’Afrique francophone. He has also written the play Génial Général Président,  and the novel Le cri du muet, éditions Archipels Littéraires.


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