Friday Poem

Greetings to the People of Europe!

Over land and sea, your fathers came to Africa
and unpacked bibles by the thousand,
filling our ancestors with words of love:

if someone slaps your right cheek,
let him slap your left cheek too!
if someone takes your coat,
let him have your trousers too!

now we, their children’s children,
inheriting the words your fathers left behind,
our bodies slapped and stripped
by our lifetime presidents,

are braving seas and leaky boats,
cold waves of fear – let salt winds punch
our faces and your coast-guards
pluck us from the water like oily birds!

but here we are at last to knock
at your front door,
hoping against hope that you remember
all the lovely words your fathers preached at ours.

by Alemu Tebeje, © 2020,
Songs We Learn From Trees
publisher: Carcanet Classics, Manchester, 2020
Translation: Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje, 2020