1  Identity and nationalism


Ghedli identity

He told us a personal story,

but asked who he was

the stranger couldn’t remember.

A great story was lost

for want of a name.


The nationalist hat

As you remove your hat

to cheer and wave

the head is rendered bare,

fully emptied

of its content.


Blind nationalism

With a wrong map for our guide,

nationalism has left us

totally disoriented:

we cannot locate ourselves



Who is fooled by who?

Enticed by a promise

a line on the sand made,

never has a people

sacrificed so much

for so little.


Drunk in nationalism

How do you tie together

a motley lot

with a line on the sand

even if it looks like a sturdy rope

under the Eritrean twilight?


2  Rape, identity and piety in Arab Land


Piety in the Arab world

When the Libyans raped them

day and night for days,

the Eritrean women said,

they had mercy on us five times a day –

when they took pauses to pray!


Near or far from the wall

The raped women wept bitterly

not for themselves but their men

on the other side of the wall

who have to carry that wall of shame

for the rest of their lives.


Faceless living

Covering his face with his hands,

he who had witnessed the horror

the Eritrean women underwent said,

“I want to settle in a land

where there are no mirrors at all.”


National language issue in Tripoli

As Tripoli children run after him

calling him “Abed! Abed!”

the Eritrean kid wondered

if making Arabic our mother tongue

would have made all the difference.


Rape and identity in Egypt

As heavyset Arab rapists

laid on top of her one by one,

all the little Eritrean lady felt was

the full weight

of her Habesha identity.


“Strange Sinai fruit”

Ghedli fruits are so resilient

that they are harvested

in abundance

even in the dreary landscape

of the Sinai desert.


3  Causes and dreams


A cause that can actually walk

When there is no cause to begin with,

the Supreme Leader becomes

all the cause that there is,

and the masses are grateful

for a cause they can actually see.


The Eritrean cause

When a cause

takes a religious turn,

it is deferred to the hereafter,

at the expense

of the here and now.


A confused generation’s cause

When a search for a cause

is confused for the cause itself

a whole generation dies for it,

lured by its promiscuity

to be whatever one wants it to be.


A dream deferred?

After decades of ghedli,

the ghedli generation

got exactly what it wanted,

the only thing it has ever known:

more of ghedli.


Fifty years of slumber

Unable to tell

another day had arrived,

we went back to sleep,

again and again.

There were no others to ask.


4  The paradox of Warsai


Warsai’s feet

When a nation demands

endless sacrifice

to stand on its own feet,

it has no other feet but yours.

Drop that dead weight and run!


Mass exodus

Even gelgele meskele doesn’t mind

when Mereb overflows,

takes it down, roots and all,

and dumps it

on the dreary desert of Sudan.


Warsai and “Eritrea”

When the very people

who escape from a prison

want it kept as is

for their brothers,

it takes an outsider to demolish it.


A nation refusing to grow up

Where gray hairs

are rendered extinct,

the young embark on a circular journey

where no one can tell

who is behind, who is ahead.


The paradox of Warsai’s feet

When those who voted with their feet,

use those very feet

to march for PFDJ in Diaspora,

the confused feet get tired

of the burden they carry around.


5  Martyrdom without a cause


Six feet deep history

When a nation’s memory

goes only six feet deep,

all that it needs is

endless supply of martyrs

to fill it with.


Sanctioning Eritrea

Eritreans measure the worth

of their nation

by how many died for it,

but the earth

can’t take it anymore.


Meeting death half way

There is no surprise

in the long standing order of death

in this land;

only in the long line of men

searching for their names.


6  Building Eritrea


Defending Eritrea

As she struggles through

with flood up to her neck,

she still has her umbrella up

above her head

to protect her from the rain.


Unrepeatable first

If a nation unravels

with its first

serious mistake,

it shouldn’t have been conceived

in the first place.


Strategic alliance

A nation born

out of strategic alliance,

sooner or later,

strategizes itself

out of existence.


The march of folly

Having walked

this far,

Eritreans still want to know

where to

and where from.


7  Out of nowhere


A shameful generation

Nobody knew what to say.

Yet, except for one’s own,

others’ silence was taken as wisdom.

This way shame came to belong

to each and everyone of us.


Eritrea’s history

It has to be said all at once

or not at all.

And if you are interrupted

in between,

you have to start all over again.


Students’ ghedli

The young thought they knew.

The old thought

their young knew.

For lack of verification,

a nation was lost.


8  The untenable middle


Under the Eritrean sky

The Night claims it has no say

on what takes place under its cover,

occupied as it is

holding off the daylight

from arriving too soon.


Sophie’s choice in Eritrea

When even the choice

not to choose

is rendered not your own,

the gods flee the scene

for lack of a foothold.