‘Ode to a Burning Homeland’: Two Poems for Sudan

By Eiman Abbas El-Nour


My niece’s wedding was supposed to take place today. My daughter’s final exams were scheduled for tomorrow morning; she and her cousin were preparing their bridesmaids’ outfits and carefully planning the time they would spend at the party in order not to interfere with their final revision. 

I had everything planned, thought about everything except what has actually taken place.

Our beloved homeland is burning! 

Behind this nightmare is a long political farce.

The family is now scattered all over the world. Stories of harrowing ordeals at the border crossing, loss of worldly possessions, and an unimaginable degree of stress and fear.

And we are constantly reminded that we are among the lucky ones!

Though safely distant from the fray, perpetually tied to our phones, grasping for any scrap of news from home; from our loved ones on scrambled lines with poor reception.

Two Gazelles from Home[1]

You dance inside my glass mug

Turning the water crimson

I inhale your vapour and taste home

I tell my stories to the date palms

I write my songs to the sun 

Hiding in your water

White, Blue, and hot orange

A carnival of harmony

I cross the bridge on foot

And walk through the marketplace

The place and space is mine

Since my first breath of life

I greet everyone by name

Wave to our old neighbour 

On his deck chair

Guided by the aroma

Of the fenugreek pudding on the stove

I reach my port of call

When I can’t see your beaming face on the horizon

How can I mend my soul?

What should a girl do

When she cannot swim 

And the bridge is blocked?

When the confluence is a memory

How can I find my compass?

Farewell to Everything Green

I stretch my hand to reach you

Come closer

I feel you near 

I smell your sweetness

My heartbeats are painfully racing

Is it because my brain is running?

Ah! How cruel are the moments

When they are filled with thorns

My roses are dead

My gardenia breathed its last kiss in the air 

And succumbed to its fate

Even the resilient cactus


Scared to live alone in the vast emptiness

I am trying to talk to you like I used to 

When the evening creeps in with a smile

When I couldn’t tell from your giggly eyes 

If you needed a drink

Do you hear me now?

Or the sounds of war have  

Deafened you forever

Maybe if I read my calming verse

And curse the devil 

A thousand times

I open my eyes 

To find all this the union of all my nightmares

[1] Referring to a popular Sudanese tea brand (Al-Gazaltain Tea / شاي الغزالتين)


Eiman El-Nour is Associate Professor in English Literature at Neelain University and Ahfad University. She is also Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. She specialises in teaching African Literature and her main research themes include African women’s writing, Sudanese literature and Sudanese orality.