Maandeeq, or she-camel, is the most recognizable and dominant metaphor for the Somali nation-state, a symbol conceived and institutionalized through classical pastoral poetry. This article examines how Somali poets of the twentieth century made use of another metaphor to consider the anxieties of independence and the founding paradoxes of the Somali state: the metaphor of qabyo. Unlike the binary offered by the stable figure of maandeeq—she’s either dead or alive, stolen or reclaimed, shared or contested—qabyo attends to the incongruent, overlapping, and cyclical forms of ruination and repair that subtend the makings of the Somali state. Moreover, by contesting the determinism of failure narratives and instead focusing on the daily labor required to conduct a life in the ruins of history, qabyo poetics, I argue, advances a sociopolitical theory of the Somali subject as one who must learn to survive ruinous time.

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