The Scourge of War

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Oct. 14th, 2020

Something growled

Something boomed

Invading the calm

It echoed.

… Stuck

Where two brothers pass each other by

Where two brothers meet

Where two brothers join

In the piazza of life and death

In the gulf between calamity and culture

In the valley of anxiety and peace

Something boomed.

While the chia and seraw acacias spat at each other

Sorghum and millet cut each other down

With no one to collect them they feed on one another,

Until a single seed remains …

Brimming with tears

Being chopped—hacked

Sowed unto itself.

… planted

In earth yet to gush In that indiscernible thing


Stream of blood and water,

The seed …

Assailed by:

The freezing sun

Tempestuous nimbus cloud

Grayish lightning

Scalding rain …

Slipping through littered iron

Climbing onto the spirit of death

Shouldering its sterile life

Here, it has grasped at spring.

The seed …

Arrived on its own

From the blood and water yet to gush

Whose and to whom unascertained

Its tributaries unidentifiable

When it parted that spring

But in that spring …

When the seed looked to the right

He was a man, it was a beard

When it looked to the left

He was the earth, it was a seed

Bewildered… it fed on amazement

Tempted … but joining forces is not like it

Who should it stick with, where should it lurk

Who should it win over or be thrown at

But that spring’s dirtiness is its ugliness

It plowed with the beak of bullet

Spilled infinite lives Swept breath


Reaped death with death

Threshing it on the shoulders of our offspring

Finally bruised the fruit in distrust.

For the fruit …

When day and night became one

Anxiety and calm mingled

A world within a world

War within peace

Trust in betrayal’s backdoor

It sunk in bewilderment.

Is it not bewildering?


The scourge of this spring of war

After a mother’s tear for her children

The clan’s tear for its time

The earth’s tear for the earth

Flowed and flowed like a stream

Soon the earth became wet and muddy

The property, mired

Entrapping all … robbing them

Then the shovel and the pick were produced

And the shroud and the stretcher sprang up

But …

How fast everything is used up and everyone scrambles for it

All of us crave and own it


The ugliness of this thing, war

When its spring arrives unwished-for

When its ravaging echoes knock at your door

It is then that war’s curse brews doom

But … You serve it willy-nilly

Unwillingly you keep it company

Still, you pray so hard for it to be silenced!


Amanuel Asrat (1999)

Translated from Tigrinya by Tedros Abraham in collaboration with David Shook (2015)

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