Our country, our times: you overwhelm us!
But still hope grows in us
like a rose, a bud of the good in us,
even if it does not flower
a leaf is enough, if the roots go deep!
hope is enough, if the bud breathes deep!
We can dig it up, throw it away
but hope is such a part of us, it will not go away.
Time teases us, steals our bloom
but still we long for something good to bloom.
For children of an unlit dawn, always living on hope –
tell us, what else is there to do?
(scribbled with troubled feelings in May 1989 when ‘a few’ generals tried to stage a coup against the Derg military government)
Notes on this poem
Bedilu Wakjira is a new discovery for me. He is a professor at Addis Ababa University and a prolific journalist and poet. I found his three Amharic poetry collections on a crowded bookstall in Piassa and started to read them in my hotel. But I needed help and was lucky enough to be contacted by Fasika Ayalew, a poet who came across my article on Ethiopian poetry in The Missing Slate in March. Fasika chose a few of Bedilu’s poems which she liked and sent me her own poetic translations, rather than literals. We then went back and forth between the original text and Fasika’s translations, looking for ways to convey the distinctive personality of Bedilu’s extended metaphors, his frequent repetitions and informal but elegant syntax; and, of course, to serve the important message of hope which shines out of every Bedilu poem and is what makes him such an inspiring writer.
– Christ Beckett