My Abebà

On the hill of Haz-Haz
lived a girl from Asmara.
Alas... my beautiful Abebà,
so poised and slender;
Abebà, a flower that rhymes,
like Kohl around an eye!
So that the world may know:
while they dug her grave,
cloaked in mysterious death,
she wove an aghelghel
and sent it without hmbascià.
On an indelible night,
they handcuffed and kidnapped her!
Every day I feel her absence,
but I see her everywhere in the dark!
As she refuses to leave my side
bring me my Abebà’s aghelghel:
perhaps it’ll hold the answer,
the key to those handcuffs,
that now bite into me.
A single inscription on my Abebà’s
aghelghel reads ‘a souvenir for my parents’,
a flower who withered before she bloomed,
my friend in prison.

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Charles Cantalupo

Greetings!  This is a great poem, and I enjoyed your translation.  Ghirmai Negash and I translated the same poem, which appears in our anthology, Who Needs a Story: Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and English (Asmara: Hdri Publishers, 2006, now distributed by African Books Collective / London). Our translation also appears at http://www.fascicle.com/issue03/poems/eritrean2.htm.  Here it is:
Abeba, my flower from Asmara…
Measured and subtle
As her makeup
And her finely drawn eyes –
She spoke like poetry.
The food her family sent
To prison everyday
Arrived as usual
The day her grave was dug.
I heard her cry.
Later that night
I also heard
The prison guard
Summon her out
And the shot.
She lives in my dreams
And refuses to leave,
Knowing all my secrets
And never letting me rest.
Before she died
She wove a basket
Inscribed “for my parents” –

Abeba, my flower from Asmara…
Who never blossomed.
My cell-mate.

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