Because I Love this Land I hold a thousand tears In the cup of my skinny hand. I carry ten thousand wails In the deep hollows of my ears. I host a million bloated babies In the deep brown of my eyes. I house ten million graves In the curls of my thinning hair. I have stored pouches upon pouches of pus In the blisters of my heart. So we do not talk about them Those others wrapped in rebel and state cross fire. We do not sing about them. How can we sing of things we do not know? How will we sing about old men’s guts eaten out by hunger, Old men’s eyes closed for fear of watching axes tear the heads Off their grandchildren? How can we explain missing ears, lips, noses, Lone limbs traversing the land Without their owners? How can we ever talk about these things Without tumours of bitterness Teeming on our hearts? No wonder we are silent. I will not talk about them I will talk of other things Of the man who hung naked On the tree and sweated sorrow for us. I will sing only of water and blood Flowing out of a side and a voice That whispered “it is finished”. I can think about glory Wrapping darkness in a shroud And storing it in an eternal grave. I will think on love of a heavenly prince Clothed in earthly tatters fighting Swindlers in the temple of God. I will think of a little child talking To bearded men about his Father’s Love. I will sing about a risen Son And transcending peace. I will sing of the victory Of love embracing love That is the only way I can ever walk upright. — Susan Kiguli
Born on 24 June, 1969 at Luwero, Uganda and educated at Makerere University and University of Leeds, Susan Kiguli teaches Literature at Makerere University.
“Because I Love this Land” is an expression of the poet’s love for her country, Uganda. It is constituted of three parts. The first part is composed of five couplets and has two end-syllables that rhyme and inconsistent half rhyme; the second part comprises two stanzas and has fourteen lines; and the third part is just one stanza of twenty lines.
The parts that constitute the elegy grow both in number of lines (10, 14 and 20) and tragic apprehension until, in the end, all problems find a mechanical cum spiritual resolution in ineffable love. The resolution is mechanical because it does not arise from the plot but comes from outside it in the manner of deus ex machina. It is also spiritual because it issues from a divine source, God’s omnipotence and omniscience.
The plot progression in the first stanza is based on increasing numbers: “a thousand tears” in the first couplet, “ten thousand wails” in the second, “a million bloated babies” in the third, “ten million graves” in the fourth and “pouches upon pouches of pus” (innumerable) in the fifth.
The economic, political and social conditions of the country, the increasing numbers suggest, grow worse as time goes by after the attainment of Independence, indisputable proof of the deepening crises of corruption, mismanagement of resources and misrule.
The ascendance of military dictatorship complicates the problems and engenders an armed rebellion that leads to the loss of a large number of lives of citizens, which is mourned by the poet.
All images deployed in the stanza – be they of sight, sound, or scatology are negative and mourn the tragic situation.
All the lines in the stanza begin with the personal pronoun “I,” the poet who witnesses the egregious horrors and also experiences vicariously the intense pain of victims of the mayhem and the violence. Her hands are “skinny”; her hair is “thinning;” and her heart is covered with “blisters.”
Everything is out of joint. There is a lack of correspondence between the high content in the first line and its minuscule container in the second line of each of the first four couplets. The incongruence produces not tragic but comic effect.
The work of mourning the wanton waste of lives in the war between the brutal regime and the rebels and the period of hunger that wreaks havoc on people continues in the second part. Mutilation of human bodies becomes commonplace. The poet asks in dejection:
How can we explain missing ears, lips, noses,Because I Love this Land, Susan Kiguli
Lone limbs traversing the land
Without their owners?
The picture is pathetic and proves one point: the mindless destruction of the country of which the poet is enormously enamoured.
The losses brought about by the civil war are so mammoth that people choose to keep silent about them, perhaps in order not to provoke rage and make the country bleed again. To talk about them, the poet surmises, might produce “tumours of bitterness.”
The poet is emphatic in the third part that she, too, will not talk about the sad events. Instead, she will seek solace in religion, specifically Christianity.
She sums up the life and times of Jesus Christ in the remaining section of the third and final part of the heartrending elegy – his birth, mission of salvation, censure of earthly powers, Crucifixion, Ascension, and message of Love.
A tone of irony, though subdued, runs through the lyric. Although the poet says that she will not talk about the depredations wrought in Uganda by the tyrannical military regime of Field Marshal Idi Amin (1971 – 1979), yet she dwells on them in the first and second parts. She is facetious and not to be taken at her word.
The poem memorializes the same historic horrors that its author does not want to discuss.
Despite the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which Christians believe have put an end to all human afflictions, there is still untold suffering in the world.
Love is offered as the unfailing solution to the conflicts, crises, devastation and insurrection represented in the poem. However, the solution, for the most part, is elusive in the world. Does it portray the poet as quixoting?
Disclaimer: This analysis is sourced from Professor Segun Adekoya's lectures on African Poetry. Literature PADI lays no proprietary claim to it.