Exiled (Translation)

Exiled
(For Mary & Peter Nazareth)

You’re once compelled to leave Uganda
When Idi Amin expelled the Asians
Though they allowed you to stay
But the general was bloodthirsty
Could you believe a dictator’s promise?

In a twinkling, your family was separated, dispersed,
In a twinkling, you’re exiled from the homeland you loved.

Without money, position, relatives, sponsors,
Your only way out, your novel, In A Brown Mantle
Making you a fellow at the University of Yale
January 1973, you bid Uganda your last farewell.

How difficult it was to begin life anew
When the bloodied history & trauma haunted you
Like a prolonged, relapsed illness, swirling sorrows,
Until The General Is Up you exorcised
Demolishing dams of questions, trauma,
Te unbridled feelings of sadness, anger, exiled,
In search of your lost homeland
In making sense of the oppression, brutality,
That a different ethnicity made you an exile
That you’re the scapegoat, despite your deep love.

But you’ve never lost Uganda, Tanzania, Africa,
Though by 1974, you’re domiciled in Iowa
Deeply involved in the IWP
Teaching literature: English, African-American, Third World Countries
Searching for our shared humanity in your course on Elvis
Searching for kinship amongst the writers you meet.

Exiled from Uganda
You made a home in IWP, the University of Iowa
Bringing the world to the Midwest of America
For your homeland are your compassion, affection,
Your culture & language are literature & the arts
& the writers you befriended, influenced,
Are your family & friends in Uganda
That you could no longer meet.

Mary & Peter
Oppression has no colour
No creed, no country,
Idi Amin or whoever are mere dictators
Ejected in the cycle of time
But your honesty & open-mindedness
Your sincerity in kindly accepting others
Will never make you a scapegoat
Will never make you an outsider
will never make you a foreigner
& in the hearts of those you’re close to, love,
Forever
You will never be exiled.

Written: 26th – 28th July 2009
Bedok, Singapore
Written and translated by Rasiah Halil. Original Malay title ‘Terbuang’.

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