PRIVATE Writers

Tal Nitzán | In the time of cholera

São Tomé - December 2018. Freedom - Even though slavery was abolished by Portugal in 1876, the Roça system continued well into the 20th century. In 1904, Henry Woodd Nevinson discovered that the the death rate in adult slaves was 12-14% and 25% in children. On 12th July 1975, following the collapse of the Estado Novo party dictatorship in Portugal, São Tomé finally gained independence and the life expectancy has been rising steadily since 1960. It now stands at 66.62 years, the fourth highest in Africa.
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Facing one another
we turn our backs to the world’s calamities.
Behind our closed eyes and curtains
both heat and war
erupted at once.
The heat will calm down first,
the faint breeze
won’t bring back
the boys who have been shot,
won’t cool down
the wrath of the living.
Even if it tarry,
the fire will come,
many waters won’t quench etc.*
Our arms as well
can only reach our own bodies:
We are a small crowd
incited to bite,
to cling to each other
to barricade ourselves in bed
while in the ozone above us
a mocking smile
cracks wide open.

* Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it (Song of Solomon, 8:7)

(From PRIVATE 47 – ISREAEL, p. 59; Translation from Hebrew by the author and Vivian Eden

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