The First Civil War in Gombe 1974-1978

I don’t know where Gombe is,
no one knows where Gombe is
but now, one can easily check,
Tanzania – that’s far away,
far, far away

yet war is war,
we all know what’s going on here
especially the fight for more land
and, of course, Lebensraum

in Gombe
a separatist group Kahama
lost everything it was fighting for
no one survived:
a story as old as the world
and equally boring

the names of the leaders are known
as are the names of all who were slain
(this in itself a historical rarity)
as are the names of those who were enslaved
before they were mercilessly murdered

acts of cannibalism by the victorious clan, Kasakela,
carefully described, in great detail

the only observer of this war, a woman,
she would recall, for years
the haunting images of drinking blood
from the enemies’ wounds
a bestial attack on the body, long dead,
of one of the defenders
for the defence endures “and will endure to the end”
(so says the poet)

half a century has passed
I no longer know what’s happening in Gombe
(well, how can one worry about
all these wars, all the time?)

the first chimpanzee civil war
about which the world has learned
thanks to Jane Goodall,
it’s an old story
and completely insignificant

still, I don’t understand
were these chimps so human
or are we such animals

translation: K. Zechenter

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Katarzyna Zechenter

Katarzyna Zechenter is a Polish poet and an Associate Professor at UCL
London. Her last volume of poetry, "Here and There"(Poznań 2019), was
awarded the Best Poetry Book by the Union of Polish Writers Abroad and
nominated for Orpheus Poetry Prize.