Daughter of Locusts

by Ribka Sibhatu

Locusts, darkened sky,
flayed earth. A mother
panting in bed.

A gloomy month, September,
void of vegetables and greenery.

'Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!
Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!
Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!

Her crying started as soon
as she came into the world.

Freed from suffering
the search for milk began
going from door to door.

Emaciated livestock lacking milk -
how to soothe the guest?
How to quench a new mother's thirst?
if the goats are not merciful.

In that desolate moment
she devoured the milk that had just been milked
and took up her crying once more.

'Is that chubby one crying again?'

'Roly-poly's crying -
as if there wasn't enough trouble'

'My poor little one... born into
chaos and famine!'

The literal translation of this poem was made by Andre Naffis-Sahely

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

• The month of September in Eritrea is considered to be Spring.
• When a girl is born, female neighbours sound out three trills (whereas when it's a boy the number is seven).
• Buffa and bozzai are nicknames that mean little fatty one/chubby.

 

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