Comrade Ho

My dear friend and comrade, Ho.[1]
I shan’t write a letter,
I can’t.
I shan’t sing a song,
Or recite a poem.
‘Cause I don’t have the talents.
I shall say what I feel,
Deep down in me.

Those were the days,
Of the Vietnam war.
Ho Chinh Minh was your uncle,
My uncle, our uncle.
Demos, sit-ins and boycotts,
Petitions, pictures and panels,
Unclothing war criminals.
People’s courts sentenced, public opinion enforced.

Those were the days,
Of Bertrand Russell and Stokely Carmichael,
Sitting in Stockholm,
Hearing napalmed men, women and children.
The public gallery wept, students shouted,
‘Down with uncle Sam,
Long live Uncle Ho.’

Your kinship was unmistakeable,
Your Cause was clear.
You stood on the side,
Of the oppressed,
humiliated and exploited.
You proudly signed your name,
with a big ‘H’ and a small ‘o’, Ho.

Moderate in language,
Measured in tone.
Civil in demeanour,
Generous in kindness.
Gentle in argument,
Steadfast in disagreement.
That was our Ho.

In Lebanon and Palestine,
In Vietnam and Indonesia.
In Chile and Cuba,
In Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau.
Wherever there was oppression and injustice,
Our Ho knew his side.

Imperialism he condemned,
Human rights he upheld.
On union, he stood his ground,
Often stoutly,
Seldom silently.
Unity he applauded,
Secession he feared.

More I say, more I want to say.
But a little more I’ll say.
Jenerali wrote:
‘Poor Saida!
She wanted to retire.
Now she’ll have to unretire,
To lead us from where Haroub left off.’

July 6, 2009

  1. Haroub Othman


Poems for the Penniless Copyright © 2019 by Issa G Shivji. All Rights Reserved.

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