Hama Tuma, 1995

The silence of Waldiba speaks volumes,

alas, our children read only Jackie Collins

Washera is a university of renown

but the queue is outside Harvard.

What “quine” or “Tsomeduga”

no one really knows Zera Yacob

we grapple instead with Spinoza.

Aliens to our souls we are but

dark stains on the memory of time.

Even Dejatch Zewde’s visiting cards say

he is an Oxford man. Take note.

* *

They say the phone operators speak

“your language”

but they only speak English

Their world is the world

we are all aliens. Yellow, brown-black.

We are the generation of the Red Terror

a nation of massacres

witnesses born to register Africa’s shame

refugees. castaways from a time of honor

and ideals

we are the survivors and the losers.

The ones who touched the stars

and tried to move the sun,

to change the world.

Remember Nkrumah, Lumumba

Ouandie, Mondlane, Cabral and Samora

Alas, the history within us is frozen

our children are not Habeshas, not Africans,

their memories conjure up only the shame

no glories.

They see the Boers but no Shaka

they know Menilik but not Adwa

they think of Yohannes but forget Metema

Tewodros was cruel they say, true,

but they miss the valor of Magdella.

Haile Sellasie was backward, oh yes,

but what about dignity, self respect?

Who says Ethiopia is fiction

but the stillborn or the child who bites off

his mother’s breasts?

* *

The DDT was sprinkled over us

we were doused with the white powder

they said to kill the lice

We were temporarily white, guinea pigs,

(they said later on DDT was bad).

The “Zar” is our therapy

            and our “kole” just the same

but out children rush to the psychiatrist’s lair.

Our chicken are sickly

and that of the “ferenji” big

our alphabet is “alien”

and that of the whites chosen.

We are ashamed of ourselves

(we are not black but red some Africans declare)

we live the heritage of others

the Ethio-Americans are everywhere.

* *

We are the generation of the Red Terror

the nation of massacres

we are cut off from the past

and the future is blocked for us.

We have witnessed too many murders, silent,

we have become accomplices.

The country’s head is chopped off

imagine a person tying himself and

cutting off his own head. Aren’t we innovative?

We touch the cloud and the rain dries up

every tree has a rope, too many gallows,

every field is a mass grave

every ravine full of bones.

Somewhere in one hole, amidst white bones

lies our soul, black and lost.

* *

We are the zombies of some other people

called from the dead by a cynical “buda”

We are the flowers of exile turned to cactus

doves carrying spears

and warriors with only empty words as arms.

We are the victims of History’s burden

too heavy for our bent backs

the slave does not dare look up to his master

he has a stiff neck to last his life.

We are hungry

we have eaten ourselves long ago

and only the tongue remains

infested by tapeworm.

* *

We eat raw meat, bravado

we are the unsung cannibals

feasting on our nation’s woes

never satisfied.

We are Mengistu, we are Meles

We are Amin and worse,


We thrive and reproduce

we are not barren but fecund

for tyrants and murderers.

* *

Who is to do the dying for others to live

when the children have forsaken their history

and fled

to worship at the White man’s church?

No missionary brought religion to us

but we weep with Billy Graham and his likes.

Who is to say Ethiopia First, God Bless Africa.

when her dreams are turned to dust

and her children laugh with her rapists?

Who is to die our death and save our pride

when the coward within us has already subdued us?

How can we be redeemed from our shame

When we forsake Africa

and with pride we wear our despair?

Who is to deliver us when we are silent

and the warriors themselves have also fled?

 I curse fate

and scatter the pages of history into the sea

even the sea, Red, has changed color

the new map digs into my wound.

No one wants to dream

love is loved with hate

and memories blank.

Menilik and Shaka

Lumumba and Nkrumah

Cabral and Samora are all forgotten

and Mandela is an old man.

The brave and the young suffer

in underground prison holes

Silence reigns.

I curse the red roses which turned yellow

cowardice is like weed strangling our souls.

The tam tam we hear is no war drum, but

the children’s cry of hunger

and an anguished mother beating her dry breasts:

there is no food, no milk,

no salvation at all.

No blood to shed for our country

no blood for Africa

no courage to sacrifice, to die.

We are the generation of the Read Terror

a nation of massacres

our blood sucked dry.

Our children have fled from their history

they leave no footprint on the memory  of time.

And even I talk to myself in silence,

in fright.

Published in: on October 18, 2007 at 7:11 pm  Comments (44)