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“The First Great Powers” by Qutouf Yahia

Qutouf Yahia is a Sudanese poet and writer. Co-founder of Backyard Poetry, a spoken word community in Abu Dhabi and founder of Locale, a Sudanese initiative for the development of local talent, Qutouf is passionate about engaging the community with the power of writing.

Transcript : “The First Great Powers”

The First Great Powers
Legend has it that the Nile is a road map to the afterlife,
Hapi is the god that reels it in,
Isis, a Goddess magician, brought back her husband, Osiris - dead in the Nile, to have holy children.
They say death knocks on every door but the Nile tears the whole house down and takes it children.

The Nile says he makes black silt from white bones
Says a woman pulled a God out of him once and he’s been running ever since
He says Osiris told him the water is not to be crossed
Said just because you call a God Hapi does not mean it will not rage

He says
Call me watchman, or call me shepherd,
Call me gatekeeper, or call me bridge,
Build a raft, soak your bodies in scripture and send them north
Earlier this year the Nile plucked 22 children out of the mouth of tomorrow and into his wide
and starving belly.
This is a tale as old as time
When the river comes to take your house, he does not come empty handed
He brings baskets of fruit and fig, brings soft winds for the night time and sycamore trees
Offers you a land that’s soft and yours
When the Nile tells you he loves you, run.
This is a tale as old as time, our loyalty is centuries in the making

My ancestors close their eyes and trust the water to walk them home
When I’m far and alone I close my eyes, and walk to water and trust it to still feel like home
My ancestors wrapped the dead in white sheets and a prayer
Every morning, my father wraps his head in white a sheet and locks in his jaw,
a prayer
Just in case death finds him.
My ancestors manufactured word
Carved language onto stone onto bone onto brick onto anything that will say it back
Wrote their name in history
Ramses
Tut
Piye
Taharqa
Amanishakheto, I wonder sometimes if they knew you were black
Knew you were woman enough to stay behind
To have your name journey farther than your body
To die faithful and remembered by the Nile and just that.

Poem Credits: Qutouf Yahia

This poem was presented as part of the “Spoken Art” programme that was curated by Dorian Rogers

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