Translations and a tribute to a young Sudanese poet who drowned, last week, in the Mediterranean Sea:

By Adil Babikir, Arablit

A young Sudanese poet’s prediction of his fate came true last week when he drowned in the Mediterranean.

Abdel Wahab Yousif, better known as Latinos, died when a rubber boat packed with African immigrants sank into the sea shortly after setting off from Libya on its way to Europe.

Latinos was well-known among the young generation of poetry fans in Sudan. The cocktail of hardships he had endured in his short life colored his verse with thick shades of melancholy:

I’ll run away from a homeland scourging my back with lashes day and night;

From a woman who doesn’t know how to feed my soul from her body’s nectar.

I’ll run from everything,

nonchalantly embrace demise.

Born to a poor family in Manwashi, Southern Darfur, Latinos managed against the odds to shove his way into the University of Khartoum. But even the bachelor’s degree he obtained from the Faculty of Economics failed to open up any window of hope. And, like scores of Darfurian youth, his last resort was Libya, a gateway through which successive waves of Africans continue to brave all perils in the hope of getting safely to European shores.

Latinos’ tragic departure last week sent shock waves among his friends and poetry fans in Sudan. Adding to the tragedy was the realization that the way he died was a perfect demonstration of a scenario that was depicted in his recent verse.

You’ll die at sea.

Your head rocked by the roaring waves,

your body swaying in the water,

like a perforated boat.

In the prime of youth you’ll go,

shy of your 30th birthday.

Departing early is not a bad idea;

but it surely is if you die alone

with no woman calling you to her embrace:

“Let me hold you to my breast,

I have plenty of room.

Let me wash the dirt of misery off your soul.”

 The poet hit the zenith of despair in the last poem he published shortly before his death:

You are destined to go;

Today, tomorrow,

or the day after.

No one can halt the heavy wheel of destruction

running over life’s body.

It’s all in vain

no last-minute savior will come

and rescue the world’s body.

It’s all in vain

no flash of light,

to scare away the darkness.

Everything is dying:

Time. Language.

Screams. Dreams.

Songs. Love. Music.

All in vain.

Everything is gone,

except a violent vacuum

dead bodies wrapped in melancholic silence

and a heavy downpour of destruction.

The sad departure of this young man underscores the evolving tragedy of the people of Darfur. Although the Sudanese people managed to uproot al-Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship in December 2018, the people of Darfur are still enduring ceaseless spates of violence while peace talks between the transitional government and the rebel forces hit one stumbling block after the other. Meanwhile, more and more desperate youth seem intent on taking this perilous course, sacrificing their lives in the hope of a better future.

Adil Babikir is a translator and an Arabic content manager at Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. He has translated several works, including Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way by Tayeb Salih and two novels by Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin.

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