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.

The Smoke – Poem by Ssebo Lule

Sep 3, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Lugandan by the author
The Smoke

The smoke means everything is burning away.
Our country is a hut full of skeletons.
Skeletons that never scream for help.
Screams that should sound like bullets getting fired.
Bullets are only fired at government ceremonies.

The smoke means food is burning.
It burns but the chef adds more charcoal.
Charcoal for food also burns the dead-and-buried.
The dead were lied to.
Switching worlds isn’t therapy.
Healing comes by not looking like a corpse.
Stop talking about the dead they won’t respond.

The smoke is the symbol of a new factory.
This new country is getting rid of citizens.
Citizens live on the smallest portion of land.
Only a few haven’t shed tears for it.
Tears close up our fresh wounds.
All alien things steal a piece of us.


Ssebo Lule (pen name) is a Luganda performance poet and translator born and living in Kampala, Uganda. His debut poetry collection Ogenda wa was published in 2018. Since then, he has performed at several arts festivals, acted in a short film called Rolex, and recently, during the 2020 lockdown, released a short poetry-rap album called Piibi. His most recent works are about COVID19, and the 2020 general elections in his country. He mostly writes poems as socio-political commentary, environmental conservation activism, and the relationship between man and inanimate objects.


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