TOGANE’S MENNONITE LESSONS FOR ALL SOMALIS
(For John Docherty)

All of my life I been
Like a doubled up fist…
Poundin’, smashin’, drivin’, —
Now I’m going to loosen these doubled up hands
And touch things easy with them.
—Tennessee Williams

1

In 1959
When I was just a child
In the Somali hamlet of Mahaddei Wayn

Before I smattered English
I heard and understood my first English sentence—
Shut your big mouth!

But I just couldn’t shut my big mouth
But I just wouldn’t shut my big mouth

There were…
There are more now…

The world is just much too much with us

There were…
There are more now…

Much more
Much too much to castigate
Much too much to curse
Much to praise too
Much to bless too

Still

Since then
Many a time had I wished that I mastered
That first Mennonite missionary Mahaddei Wayn English lesson
And kept my Mighty Motor Mouth shut

Or

That I had at least prayed every time this prayer
That same Mahaddei Wayn Mennonite missionary had taught me to pray
Before I would open up my mighty trap:

O Lord,
Grant me
The tongue of the wise
That brings healing

For reckless words pierce as a sword
For reckless words needlessly create enmity.

Set a guard over my mouth,
O Lord;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.

II

One Sunday
In the Montreal Mennonite House of Friendship & Fellowship

After I preached
After I pontificated
After I explained the unexplainable
After I defined the indefinable
After I pondered over the imponderable
After I unscrewed the inscrutable
Like that old-time Negro
preacher of James Weldon Johnson
After I became a puffed-up firm believer of my own puffery
After I was thoroughly through wowing myself and everybody else too
Into my awesome state of
self-awe

Erica
A chirpy child chirped up:

Togane
I agree with

What you have said
For
What you have said

Is sound

But did it really have to be

That loud!

Look!

The poor walls are still sore afraid!
The poor walls are still trembling!

III

Dancing drunk on my very own witches’ brew of wild word witchery
A dancing debauchee of my very own peculiarly clannish

Somali self-deceit
Somali self-conceit

Many a time my very own Demons would drive me

Dancing
Dancing into their seductive circle of sorcery
Dancing into their self-righteous Somali Moslem war whoopee

And every time that my crazy clannish Somali Moslem spell would strike me
Mercifully my Montreal Mennonite friends of the House of Friendship &
Fellowship would also make
their move

Dancing
Dancing me back into their delightful dance of Friendship & Fellowship
Dancing me back into their delightful dance of Peace & Love

So
I will arise and go now
And go back to the Mennonites

Because I have more Mennonite lessons to master
Because Mennonite lessons are life-long lifetime lessons
Because Mennonite lessons are life-affirming lessons
Because Mennonite lessons are Survival Soul lessons

So
I will arise and go now
And go back to the Mennonites
And say:

Erica!
Eureka!
I am back
Back for more Mennonite humbling heart lessons
That have already put my name in the book of life.


—Mahamud Siad Togane