Two poems by Neide Sigaúque

On 15 May, poet Neide Sigaúque was commissioned to perform two poems on the themes of the WIDER Development Conference The world at crossroads – securing the future generations held in Maputo, Mozambique.

One cannot sleep here, let alone dream 

I am Neide Sigaúque,
A woman
from the southern side of the Third World,
Mozambique, 'land of the good people'.

I was born in an independent country 
—independently of my parents' liberation struggle,
today dependent on external aid.
A country with an economy dependent on external debt,
vulnerable to external shocks, extreme poverty.

A poet has said:
'One cannot sleep here, let alone dream'.
These were also the words of my late father.
A nurse,
saving lives scattered around the corners of the Central Hospital.
Complaining always that nurses are poorly paid,
with deplorable working conditions and medication lacking 
—the thing is, it depends on donations that sometimes come, and sometimes don’t.
Maybe I should think of another profession:
funds in the public sector are unreliable,
depending upon donations. They cannot be used for planning.
There is no accountability, there is little to no training.

My widowed mother
dreamt of seeing her daughter succeed,
become a doctor and my family to be proud.
She went into debt, willing to sacrifice everything.
But today, years after her passing, her dream is yet to come true.
Her debts are my responsibility to pay:
One cannot sleep here, let alone dream.

I so wanted to be different from her,
who had to marry early,
stop studying,
take care of the house,
as tradition dictates.
I knew that wasn't my place:
a woman's place is where she wants to be.
I knew where I wanted to be, but not how to get there.

I grew up with uncles who lent me a hand.
I slept and tossed and turned on the mattress,
because one cannot sleep here, let alone dream.
I was lucky to have access to education,
because some do and others don't.
Thanks to books purchased through donated funds
I learned to read, count, and write my future,
which is now in my hands.

At 17 I finished high school,
university at 22.
Entering the job market was the next step.
I knocked on doors and all I heard was no.
The training was useless, they said,
the diploma was in vain.
This is the structure of the economy: 
there isn't room for everyone, but they could find me a place
if I had 50 thousand at hand.

At 23 I already realized that it is difficult to find a job
and sustain myself.
I became an informal salesperson 
—a common solution for young people who, despite their diplomas, see doors closing.
I sold badjia and clothes with a lot of motivation.
At the end of the month, I can buy my bread
but it's hard to save,
grow the business and make it formal.
I would even like to pay taxes, contribute, help 
—but for young people in this country there is a structural problem:
we are too many for the job market,
it cannot absorb us, and there is no fiscal space to invest in us.
Even so, they say it is a country with potential.
But with unsustainable debt and no access to a loan
the dream of even the strongest is unrealistic.

Today, independent, without anyone's support,
I continue to dream.
But I realized that I need to wake up.
Because here one cannot sleep, let alone dream.
We need to join forces, open our eyes, wake up and make it happen.

Poeticize to revolutionize

I'm a poet.
I'm sorry,
I'm a poet but I can't write
like the know-it-alls
Luís Vaz de Camões,
Declarations of love,
but I write declarations of peace,
letters of intervention to resurrect
Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King
Luther King, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and other 
intellectuals, reflections on current times.

I don't speak much about love, but more about hate
for having dominated the world and today, few know how to love. I write
to massacre the system,
report scams
talk about corruption, hunger, poverty, racism, terrorism and other extremisms.

Life is hard enough
and even so you speak about suffering?
Poetry isn't just about pain.
Talk more about romance and love.
Perfume the body and hide the smell?
write about the beauty of the sea, these empty seas that fill with tears? Palestine,
Ukraine and Cabo Delgado are bleeding, can’t you see? Are we to pretend there's
Cover the our reality?
I could write about the blue sky in these cloudy rainy times
but I can't smile in the midst of so many tears,
be cold when the world is on fire.
The voice of suffering cries out.
Horrors and terrors
And I, a poet, am to speak about flowers?
Poetry is not an invention
It's inspiration in real stories, lived experiences.
Poetry is everyday life.
And if it's not to reclaim, liberate and revolutionize, then why poeticize?

I don't know how to write to fascinate 
I write to preach the ABC of empathy
So that together we can read the world and realize
That in the mathematics of life 1+1 does not equal two
Because all of us together are one
one body, one world.

Forgive me, I'm a poet, but I don't know how to romanticize and ignore
The pain of the violated woman, the hungry child, the selfishness that consumes us, the
depressed teenager, the repressed citizen, the unemployed youth, the bullets that
killed, the black people murdered, the exacerbated crime.
I can't do it.

I'm a poet because God wrote that in me,
Poetry must dwell
to be the voice of the silent world that even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
And whoever invented that the shovel is heavier than the pen
does not know the weight of the pen
of a poet
Neide Sigaúque


Neide Sigaúque is a final year Philosophy student at the Eduardo Mondlane University, poet, reciter, reporter, presenter, slammer, volunteer for community development, and social activist for human rights and women's rights.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute or the United Nations University, nor the programme/project donors.