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The Epic of ʿAnzī, ʿĪsā Kedḥayt’s Pickup Truck
Poem composed and recited by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in ʿĪsā’s house in Jāḏeb, January 2004.
Despite the formulaic opening formulas, this poem quickly diverges from the solemnity of a traditional tribal-historical ode. ʿĪsā Kedḥayt is confronted not with the murder of a kinsman but with the unjust seizure of his car: a 1985 Toyota pickup truck nicknamed “ʿAnzī.” ʿĪsā had left ʿAnzī in al-Ghaydha with a mechanic, a northern Yemeni named Ǧōbān (perhaps from Jubān in Central Yemen) who demanded 270,000 Yemeni riyals (ca. $1380) for repairs. ʿĪsā only had 200,000 Yemeni riyāls which Ǧōbān refused to accept and therefore kept the car under lock and key. ʿĪsā returned to Rēhen to gather the remaining 70,000 YER in loans, (“to massage the udder of the milch-camel” ) but was turned down again and again. One milch cow was so stingy that she would “turn away her own calves” [10-12], another had “his head lowered” (i.e., was hard-pressed for cash) and “kicked” at ʿĪsā during “the milking” [13-15]. ʿĪsā goes to six more possible lenders and is met with refusal each time. Some he derides as people who sell tissue paper (klīneks < Eng. “kleenex”) and spices for hot sauce and others as people who lift cinder blocks for a living [18-21]. They are dismissed by ʿĪsā as petty vendors who are too stingy to help him out (“they are all businessmen, but it’s better to be broke” ). ʿĪsā manages to find some real friends: Bakhīt, ʾAḥmad, and Rāshid, who recall how much ʿAnzī was appreciated in Rēhen for giving people rides and offer to return the kindness [23-25]. Finally, ʿĪsā pays a visit to a certain Qaḥṭān who lives “in his fortress, like the rain clouds” [26-27]. The “fortress” is the customs house at Ṣarfēt on the Yemen-Oman border where Qaḥṭān works as the chief customs officer. Qaḥṭān speaks kindly to ʿĪsā and encourages him “to lift up his head” , because his pride (and ʿAnzī) will soon be restored to him. Qaḥṭān offers to pay the rest of the repair costs and to “set loose the bond from where it was all knotted up” .
The Epic of ʿAnzī Translation 1) lawb ǧōneš ḥyūm // l-ād ār eġlēs O Sun, you have set // there is nothing except the twilight 2) w-hēlʿayyēn // lbōdem ḥwēs The small shadows // have all become mixed and faded. 3) ār hōh b-ḫeyr lā // bī mēken ʿākēs I’m not doing well // there is a much agitation within me, 4) hīs hōh w-ʿanzī // ḫā ṭāṭ ḏ–ḥeybēs For me and for ʿAnzī // like someone who is imprisoned 5) w-hēl ǧōbān // berk meḥrēs At Ǧōbān’s // in a guarded courtyard, 6) mhelḳawf b-deyn // b-ḳeyd mīrēs Held in debt // by the bond of a camel’s halter. 7) ber šēh mīteyn // wel ḳawṭā ḥlēs He’s already got 200 // but it doesn’t cut off his craving, 8) ʾāsē b-sebʿīn // zimh ǧrēs If only there were 70 // may God give him trouble! 9) w-hoh b-ḥaywōn // l-ād śī fwālēs In my lockbox // there’s not even any pocket change; 10) fōn mōren ǧzūr // l-ʿāḳār ʿansēs We have already massaged the udder of the milch-camel // may God increase ʿAnsēs! [name of a milch-camel] 11) w-ettōlī ḫzūt // w-ḥruhs nśēs But then she refused // and lifted up her head, 12) w-l-ād bawt lā // ettē l-ḥabrēs She didn’t even give suck // to her child. 13) we-mġōren ġerhīt // ettaḫf menkēs Afterwards to someone else, // but my arrival (found him) with his head lowered. 14) feźḫōt be-ḥrōh // we-źḥawt hīs yēs Deeply ashamed (?) // [unclear delivery and vocabulary] 15) w-ḥāl ḏe-ḥlēb // bīn māken rfēs During the time for the milking // there was a lot of kicking at us. 16) ār tewwen nleyn // eśśawr neḳlēs That’s enough, let’s go in the late afternoon // we’ll stick to the plan. 17) nāmēd heṭrōf // men ġeyr menfēs We’ll rely on certain parties of kin // who don’t give excuses. 18) hēm ār yettīt // ḏ-nūka w-ḥēs There are six // whoever comes (to them) they bat away with their hands: 19) bōlī klīneks // w-bzūr ḏ-besbēs The Kleenex People // and those of spices for bisbēs 20) we-bkōr ḏ-keśrēb // ślēl we-ḫsēs And piles of cinder blocks // that they haul and dump 21) tǧert hem kel // ḫeyr mens flēs There are all businessmen // but it’s better to be broke than this. 22) ār hoh b-neḳlīn // ād šī hwēǧēs I still have other choices // there are yet ideas in me. 23) bḫīt we-ḥmēd // w-rāšed ḥrēs Bakhīt, ʾAḥmad // and Rāshid, may God protect them! 24) ʿāmōrem ʿanzī // w-kōh tḥībēs They said: “ʿAnzī // why is she locked up? 25) ḥallī w-serbēt // ymedḥem tēs The people of the district and the packs of children // praise her.” 26) w-lū l-ḳaḥṭān // ḏ-bēr ḫīrēs Or [I’ll go] to Qaḥṭān // the one of the clan Ḥīrēs, 27) be-ḥḥāṣen ykūn // hīs erwēkēs He’ll be in his fortress // like the rainclouds. 28) ād l-wukbeh // ḥmō ḏe-źrēs Bitter water // has not yet entered him 29) w-bēr yembōt // b-źīḳ we-nfēs And he’s already been spoken of // in times of need and times of ease. 30) ʿāmūr ʾāmōh // ḥeḏḏōr tehsēs He says: “Grandfather // take care to listen well! 31) ḥruhk erfāʾ // ām-bēr nīkēs Raise your head // if it was lowered, 32) nenōṯer eḳayd // men hēl ḏe-ʿīkēs We will set loose the bond // from where it was all knotted up."