Of all the bread joints in all the world, she had to walk into his, writes Gwen Thompkins for NPR, and that began Somalia’s greatest tale of love and heartbreak. In the 1930s, Elmi Bodheri was just a poor baker—until he glimpsed a girl named Hodhan. Never mind that he was 30 and she was 9, or that she was from a wealthy and powerful clan, or that he never saw her again. He became, instantly, a lovesick poet, and was until he died.
Somali men considered sentimentality effeminate, and both families disapproved. Worse, Bodheri’s poems were shockingly explicit. Hodhan went on to marry a clerk and raise 9 children. Bodheri, too, married, but his wife left him when she realized she couldn't measure up to Hodhan. By the mid-'40s, he was dead, of a broken heart—or tuberculosis, the romance-challenged say. Now he's a celebrated poet and a standard figure in Somali love songs. Proposing to his wife, one politician said, “I can't love you like Bodheri loved Hodhan. But I can love you.”