Tuesday Poem – I have forgot you oh without – by Enoh Meyomesse, released from Kondengui Prison 27.04.15

I have forgot you
oh without
I have forgot my morning prowl
down Mfoundi canal
I have forgot my daily trawl
along Ongola’s stinking sidewalks
I have forgot my interminable treks
past the oh-so-ugly hovels of Essos Nkoldongo
I have forgot the deaf-making clamour of your markets
louder than the Lobé falls
I have forgot the polyphonic horn blasts of your cars
in the muddy boroughs
I have forgot your steaming stewing cassava
each morning beside the road
I have forgot the mouth-watering crackle of your doughnuts
beneath the teeth of a starving beggar
I have forgot the lap of your flour thresher’s hands
beside the nerve-gnawing sawdust fire
I have forgot the din of your packed-in bars
grimly intoxicating my people
I have forgot the reek of your spirits in the carry-outs
and shacks of Matango
I have forgot the violent brawling of your men
when their heads bob with liquor
I have forgot the faces of your roadside gawpers
eyeing out gossip to hawk hawk hawk
I have forgot the shrugging strut of your water boys
your guava and mango boys, hopeless
I have forgot the desperate eyes of your street-dwellers with
stumps for hands who beg, endless
I have forgot the radiant faces of your young women
so charming when they smile
I have forgot the sweet music of your bistros birthing
burning love affairs
I have forgot the sellers of your flowers
to whom
will I give them

Translated by Katy Thompsett (from Jail Verse, Poems from Kondengui Prison ) Printed with permission.

Last year Enoh Meyomesse was my featured guest several times. I am repeating the above poem in celebration of his release from prison. On 27 April 2015, the award-winning writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse was finally freed from Kondengui Prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon, after almost three and a half years.

enoh outside prison after his releaseIt’s funny to see the prison from outside’ said Meyomesse shortly after his release to writer Patrice Nganang who, along with friend Bergeline Domou, spearheaded the campaign for his release since his arrest back in November 2011, ‘They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom then there’s nothing to complain about. I don’t have the words to thank you for your unswerving support over all these years.’
Enoh Meyomesse, who has published more than 15 books – and who unsuccessfully ran for the Cameroon presidency in October 2011, challenging Paul Biya’s 30-year rule – was arrested in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, in November 2011 and charged with armed robbery and attempting to organise a coup. According to English PEN, he was held in solitary confinement and complete darkness in Bertoua for 30 days, before being moved to Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé…”to read more of this article from Alison Flood writing in the Guardian, Wednesday 29th April, 2015 go here

In an open letter to Enoh (printed in The Guardian newspaper under the title Day of the Imprisoned Writer) Alan Mabanckou wrote ‘By imprisoning a writer, they are playing with fire: how could they build walls around our imagination, when they know it has a pair of giant wings and that it sings, in every season, its hymn to freedom?’ To read the whole of this letter go here

Book Cover Jail Verse
Book Cover Jail Verse

Pen England says ‘We will continue to support Enoh to recover his health, which has suffered as a result of more than three years’ imprisonment in poor conditions, and in his fight to clear his name. We urge the Cameroonian authorities to expedite his Supreme Court Appeal and to ensure that he remains free to write.’ If you would like to make a donation to help them help Enoh, you can either buy a copy of Jail Verse here, or make a donation via Pen England. To read more of his poetry go to my previous posts here on gurglewords.

And if you haven’t already done so, please return to the Tuesday Poem Hub, where this week’s editor is Saradha Koirala with a poem by Alice Miller.