(I) Eritrea, Eritreans and Eritreanism
(I) Eritrea, Eritreans and Eritreanism
I – Interviewing the president
Wiser clocks at standstill
He runs through a marathon interview.
His followers set the clocks at the start,
but were amazed to see the clock hands
refusing to budge even a second,
preferring to count time only on content.
Covering a fool’s ass
Every time the Grand Fool opens his mouth
black bile gushes out of it.
His followers rush with a white sheet wide spread
to make a Rorschach ink out of it,
and read into it all kinds of wisdom.
Every time the tyrant opens
his filthy mouth
bile-muddied frogs jump out of it,
as they keep croaking:
CIA! CIA! CIA!
The roaring 20’s
El Presidente talks, talks and talks …
His people try hard to remember
its most memorable moments.
But all they recall is one word: “twenty”
- the number of interviews he conducted.
Crowning a fool
Why don’t the women of Axum
sing the old song
of the foolish king of Mereb Milash
who had it all in his hands before he let it go.
Haven’t they heard of his reincarnation?
The king of fools
Ah, why blame a fool for being a fool!
Blame those who carried him for 20 years
before they sneaked him to Asmara
with all his foolishness
tightly caged inside a Pandora’s box.
I I– Independence and nationalism
They shout it at top of their voices
from the rooftops
in defense of the homeland,
as the roofs cave in
from too much stampeding.
May 24 sticky memories
The people want to relive
that single event
that brought joy to their hearts.
But, hard as they try, these days
memories come in bundles only.
The “nationalism” alabaster
Alabaster around their neck,
|they keep sinking fast.
Asked to throw it out, they shout:
“With such a heavy name curved on it?
No hands dare commit such treason!”
The Eritrean flag
You want to know which way
the wind is blowing?
Stand in front of the flag,
and feel the breathe of a whole nation
on your bared back.
III – The Eritrean dream
The Warsai were up on their feet
day and night
for such a long time
that when it came to sleep time,
they forgot how to dream.
The people were asked to give up
all their dreams
for the sake of the nation.
So they did, including the dream
of ever dreaming again.
The dream of this nation
can only be sustained by devouring
the dreams of its children.
And the parents happily line them up
to be thrown into the national dish.
Ghedli’s folded hidri!
Guard it vigilantly
and hand it over
to the next generation.
And lest you kill the hope for ever,
don’t you dare open it!
Those who agreed on that first day
were glad that the agreeing part
was done and over.
Now, they have to figure out
what about – after five decades!
(IV) Fathers and their toddlers
The genesis of ghedli
Our fathers committed the greatest sin
a father could possibly commit
when, confusing muhro for wisdom,
they DEFERRED to their sons
at too early an immature age.
A tyrant is like a toddler
left on his own;
everything is his to explore.
And left alone for long,
he burns down the house.
The Warsai complain of the old generation.
Hardly do they know!
The old generation’s cardinal sins
go all the way back to their young days.
The problem is: they never grew up!
(V) The culture of martyrdom
When a nation at war with itself
invokes the name of martyrs,
mothers lose their instinct
to protect their young,
and spill their milk on dry earth.
The wailing wall of silence
Eritreans have something to say
only on memorial days.
But the unearthed are puzzled
why the dead want to talk to the dead
Bereft of identity
In the culture of martyrdom
there is no distinction in name
between those who begat
and those begotten,
for death begets only death.
When a citizen’s thought
is not free enough
to resist the gravity of the land
so as to soar high above,
it goes only six feet deep.
What is most notable
about the book of martyrs
is not what it says
but what it doesn’t say:
what for is all this sacrifice?
“Because our martyrs died for it!”
When there is no justifiable cause
for the death of so many,
the death of so many
becomes the reason
for the death of many more.
(VI) Mute revolution
Eritrean division of labor
When those who have nothing to say
say a lot
and those who have a lot to say
a revolution goes mute.
Tim mibal meritsna
When the only noise a revolution makes
is through guns,
that noise is confused for its voice;
and a thundering silence
In this tortured land,
silence is confused for wisdom.
Patience is valued so much
that it stubbornly prevails
in face of horrendous injustice.
The most reckless are not those
who run fast to catch the only train,
but those who stand still.
Do not confuse speed for recklessness.
Nor silence for wisdom.
(VII) Unity and identity
When an idea that cannot wade through
a shallow river to meet an old relative,
attempts to swim across a sea
in search of a new one,
sharks claim it as their own.
The culture of exclusion
As they keep excluding
one group after another
in search of “genuine” Eritrean,
they find themselves outside the empty set
they have so laboriously constructed.
A split-headed birth
The women of Eritrea
ululated 14 times
for a child born still!
It was a two-headed monster
they cannot help but marvel at.
Hade libi, hade hizbi
Eritreans love each other so much
that they decided one heart would do for all.
But it was so monstrously huge
that the only place large enough
to accomodate it was the President’s Palace.
Assembling disjointed Eritrea
Frankensteins are not assembled
out of alien, monster components,
but out of normal creatures’ body parts.
It is only that they don’t fit with one another
or are jointed at their weakest links.
IX – War and the horrors of living
Creatures of ambiguity
The guayla drums are beating.
Is it a call to feast or war?
The villagers won’t say.
So much existential ambiguity
in a dead animal’s skin!
Micro-dammed in Eritrea
The drums of war are beating;
young men are pouring down the hills.
Mothers hold hand in hand,
damming this flood of men.
But the earth too claims its share.
Bayto a’di in zemene ghedli
It is a miracle how it stands,
this bayto tree with deadened roots.
Does it remember how
from the elders’ stories,
told and retold under its shade?
The people have no idea of the horror
|they have gone through.
They say it has to play out first
before they can conclusively identify it.
Even if it takes a lifetime!
The Eritrean story
The people are dying out
because they have no new stories to tell.
They keep beating the same story
over and over
until nothing is left of it.