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NESIN, Aziz


Be Silent

Be silent; don’t speak.

It is a shame; stop your voice;

Be silent already.

And if speech is made of silver

Silence is made of gold.

The first words I heard as a child

when I cried, laughed, played were

“be silent!”

At school they told me half truths; they told me: “what do you care? Be silent”

When a girl first kissed me, they told me “Shhh be silent; don’t say a word”

Stop your voice; and don’t speak; be silent.

This went on until I became 20 years old.

The words of the grown up; the silence of the child.

I saw blood in the streets

“what do you care” they told me “you gonna get in trouble, be silent”

Later on my bosses got angry

“don’t get involved; keep your nose clean; be silent”

I got married, had children; I taught them to be silent

My wife was loyal and industrious and knew how to be silent.

She had a prudent mother who told her: “be silent”

During leap years my parents, my neighbors advised me

“be silent; don’t get involved; pretend you did not see anything; be silent”

We might have not had an envied relationship with our neighbors

But we were connected to them by

“be silent”

“Be silent” this person said and that one.

Those high up: “be silent”

Those below: “be silent.”

“Be silent” said our neighborhood

“Be silent” our city.

We swallowed our tongue.

We have a mouth but no voice

We even formed an association:

“The silent ones”

And there were many of us: a whole country, a big power

But mute

We were successful; we reached high goals; we received medals and rewards

Only with “be silent”

This “be silent” a great art.

Teach it to your children, your wife, your mother in law

And when you feel the need to speak

Deracinate your tongue

Make it stop.

Cut it off completely

Throw it to the dogs

It is an unnecessary tool when you don’t use it correctly.

You will sleep well at night this way; no nightmares; no doubts; no guilt

You will not feel ashamed in front of your kids

You will save yourself from having to speak

To say “you are right; I am like you; one of you”

But ahhh!

How I wish I could speak

But you will not

You will become a salivating verbalist

Cut off your tongue

Cut it off now

Become a mute

Since you are not gonna speak; you should dare that much.

Cut off your tongue.

This way you will be consistent with my plans

With my dreams

I retain my tongue amidst tears and cries

Because I fear that there will come a moment

Where I won’t be able to take it anymore

I will burst out

I won’t be afraid

I will hope

And every minute

I will fill my throat

With one syllable

One whisper

One stutter

One howl

Which will tell me:

SPEAK!