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Poem

Alemu Tebeje

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 to ours.

ሰላምታ ለአውሮፓ ህዝብ!

ሰላምታ ለአውሮፓ ህዝብ!

አባቶቻችሁ! . . . በምድርም በሰማይ አቆራርጠው
                                                          መጥተው፣
በአፍሪካ . . . መጽሀፍ ቅዱስን በገፍ አሰራጭተው!
ለቀደምቶቻችን፣ እንደዚህ እያሉ፣ ፍቅር ነበር ሰብከው:

ጉንጭህን ለሚመታ ደግሞ፣
                ሁለተኛውን ስጠው፣
መጎናጸፊያህንም ለሚወስድ፣
                እጄ ጠባብህን ደግሞ አትከልክለው . . .

አሁንም! . . . የእነሱ ልጅ ልጆች. . . እኛ!
የአባቶቻችሁ ልምድ ወራሽ፣ ህመምተኛ!
የስየል፣ የእርዛት፣ የግፍ ሰለባዎች፣
ባገር በቀል ጨቋኝ፣ የዕድሜ ልክ ገዢዎች፣
 
ባህር አቆራረጠን፣ በአረጁ ጀልባዎች ፣
አስፈሪ ማዕበል፣ የተፋን ግልቶች፣
በጨዋማው ንፋስ፣ በድንበር ጠባቂ ወታደሮቻችሁ፣
በጥፊ ተላግተን፣ መለመላችንን ቆመን ከፊታችሁ፣
ከሞት የተረፍን . . .ይዘው እያወጡ ዘይት እንደገቡ ብርቅ ወፎቻችሁ!

ይኸው መጨረሻ፣ ማንኳኳት ይዘናል፣ ደርሰን ከበራችሁ፣
የተስፋ ቅራሬ፣ ተስፋ በመሰነቅ፣ እንዳልተረሷችሁ፣
እኒያ! እኒያ! እኒያ! የፍቅር ቃላቱ . . .
ለእኛ አባቶች የእናንት ያኔ የሰበኩቱ።
Alemu Tebeje

Alemu Tebeje

(Ethiopia, )
Alemu Tebeje is an exiled Ethiopian journalist, poet, lyric writer and human rights campaigner who lives in London, close to Grenfell Tower. He runs the website  Debteraw and his poem 'Greetings to the people of Europe!' was projected on public buildings in Denmark, Italy, USA and UK by Jenny Holzer in 2017.

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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 to ours.

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 to ours.
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère