Under the Sycamores by Zeineb Yassin Translation by Charles Cantalupo and Dessale Berekhet


I’m burning

To boil you


Like raw,

Delicate meat

In liberation.


But I’m too ancient

For the army.


Too helpless

To be the minister

Of education


And too bold

In this damn world.



Veteran fighter in Eritrea’s 30-year armed struggle for independence and mother of nine Zeineb Yassin – popularly known as Mother Zeineb – died at the age of 87 in 2005.  Translated from Tigre, “Under the Sycamores” is a transcription based on her performance on 1/15/2000 at the Against All Odds literary festival.

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Zeineb Yassin

Charles Cantalupo

Dessale Berekhet 


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