21 Days/21 Poems: ‘My Abebà’ by Ribka Sibhatu

Eritrea has a rich literary culture dating back centuries. I know nothing about Eritrean literature, a situation I intend to remedy in the near future.   Who Needs A Story? Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic, edited by Negash and Cantalupo will help.  The anthology features the work of 22 poets including Eritrea’s best known poet, Reesom Haile.

Sibhatu,-Ribka
Source: Poetry Parnassus

Ribka Sibhatu was born in Asmara but lives in Rome.  She was imprisoned for one year and fled her country in 1980.

The theme for today’s Another 21 Days/21 Poems is dictatorship.

My Abebà

On the hill of Haz-Haz
lived a girl from Asmara.
Alas… beautiful Abebà,
poised and slender;
a flower that rhymes Abebà
like kohl rhymes round an eye!

So that the world may know:
while they were digging her grave,
cloaked in mystery and death,
she wove an aghelghel basket
and sent it empty of hmbascià bread.

On an indelible night,
they took her from me in handcuffs!

……………………………………………….

Every day I feel her absence
but in the dark she’s everywhere.

She never wants to leave me –
so bring me the alghelghel of my Abebà
maybe it holds the answer,
the key to her handcuffs

that now bite into me.

There’s only one inscription –

‘a memento for my loved ones’ –

on the alghelghel of my Abebà,
a flower who faded before she bloomed,
my friend in prison.

– by Ribka Sibhatu

Translated by The Poetry Translation Centre.  Visit their website; they do good work!

Source: The Poetry Translation Centre

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