Memorial | Kumbukumbu

The month of June saw its sunset yesterday, and the month of July dawned today. In keeping with the spirit of commemorating ends and beginnings, I’m sharing a poem that came to me in time to be shared at a hospital memorial service I had been asked to do a reading at last week. It was an profound honour to be asked to do so, one that was uncanny in light of being the cover image on a book of poems praising those who came before — I wrote about this a few days ago.

I went into the ceremony expecting it to be a somewhat generic memorial, but there was so much love and peace in the air — fruits of the hospital social workers’ careful crafting and execution of the service, placing all the focus on the patients and their families. The Boston Globe published a piece about it a few days later; I’m the volunteer mentioned in the article! 🙂 Here’s what I read. (*I will not be translating this poem into Swahili, for the nature of poetry does not allow me to do so directly without losing its very essence; kindly excuse me for deviating from my bilingual commitment.)

Sunrise and sunset:
Two times when the sun is at its most beautiful,
most beholden.
Sunrise – joyful because it heralds a new day;
Sunset – bittersweet as the day ends and night is nigh.

But when the sun hides
just after twilight
It never really leaves us; it
just goes to brighten the other side of the world.
Likewise when our loved ones’ suns set
it’s only because they’re breaking dawn
Elsewhere.

And in the same way that the sun doesn’t actually move,
our loved ones don’t leave us:
we spun in tandem on this planet
until they reached their final stop –
but we haven’t.
And so our worlds keep turning
‘til we lose physical sight of them,
but never quite lose the sense of their presence
just out of view.

In love we knew them,
In love we left them,
In love we must continue,
dancing to life’s song;
their memories notes on the pages
of the music that accompanies us.

In honour of all those who have danced onward.

© Sylvia Ilahuka

IMG_20170701_184017_604
I wrote the poem while sitting atop a local mountain; this was the sunset I captured shortly after.

***

Mwezi wa sita ulifikia machweo yake jana, na mwezi wa saba mawio yake leo. Kuendana na mtindo wa kuadhimisha miisho na mianzo, ninachapisha shairi lililonijia wiki iliyopita wakati nikijiandaa kutoa somo kwenye sherehe ya kumbukumbu ya hospitali kwa wagonjwa wao waliofariki. Ilikuwa heshima kubwa mno kuombwa kusoma, ombi ambalo lilipewa maana zaidi kwa kuwa nimejikuta kwenye jalada la kitabu cha mashairi yenye kusifu waliotutangulia — niliandika kuhusu hiki katibu siku chache zilizopita.

Nilitarajia sherehe ya kumbukumbu ingekuwa ya kawaida tu na kavu, lakini nikakuta upendo na amani kwa wingi — matunda ya wafanyakazi wa kijamii wa pale hospitalini walivyokuwa makini kwenye kuiandaa na kuitekeleza, mwelekeo wote ukiongozwa kwa wagonjwa waliofariki na familia zao yaani wafiwa. Gazeti la The Boston Globe waliandika makala kuhusu hii shughuli; nimetajwa kama mtu aliyejitolea! 🙂 Chini ndicho nilichokisoma. (*Hili shairi sitalitafsiri kwa Kiswahili, kwa kuwa ushairi ulivyo hautafsiriki moja kwa moja bila kupoteza kiini chake; tafadhali niwieni radhi kwa kukiuka ahadi yangu ya kuandika katika lugha mbili.)

Sunrise and sunset:
Two times when the sun is at its most beautiful,
most beholden.
Sunrise – joyful because it heralds a new day;
Sunset – bittersweet as the day ends and night is nigh.

But when the sun hides
just after twilight
It never really leaves us; it
just goes to brighten the other side of the world.
Likewise when our loved ones’ suns set
it’s only because they’re breaking dawn
Elsewhere.

And in the same way that the sun doesn’t actually move,
our loved ones don’t leave us:
we spun in tandem on this planet
until they reached their final stop –
but we haven’t.
And so our worlds keep turning
‘til we lose physical sight of them,
but never quite lose the sense of their presence
just out of view.

In love we knew them,
In love we left them,
In love we must continue,
dancing to life’s song;
their memories notes on the pages
of the music that accompanies us.

In honour of all those who have danced onward.

© Sylvia Ilahuka

IMG_20170701_184017_604
Shairi nililitunga nikiwa nimeketi kwenye kamlima karibu na ninakoishi; hii picha niliipiga mara baada ya kumaliza kuandika.

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