O, Western Democracy
I praise you,
who takes us to Gleneagles
in a warm coach,
so we can stage our protest
against the butcher of Ethiopia.
You drop us by an empty field
two miles from the hotel,
so even though the Butcher cannot hear,
we are free to hurl our slogans
into the wind:
“Political plurality!” we shout
“Human Rights!” we cry
The sun is low and it is rather cold.
Policemen stamp their boots.
Some crows hear what we say
and look surprised, they undertake
to carry messages into your conference
where every beak laps up
the sweetness of your words,
jabbing at your shortbread promises.
So in the dark I praise you,
for your glistening motorways
of free expression,
your empty fields and willing crows,
for the dry biscuits you feed to monsters.
by Alemu Tebeje
from Songs We Learn From Trees
© Translation: 2020, Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje
Publisher: Carcanet Classics, Manchester, 2020