Reesom Haile, Four poems, Translated by Charles Cantalupo



African Leaders


All of you African leaders

And how many of you

A woman?


Hanging on the devil’s

Every word,

You take his wings

And soar like birds.


Circling higher and higher,

Closer and closer

To the sun,

You’re a speck


And won’t hear us calling,

“Come back, come back,”

Craning our necks

Until the fateful day


Your wings catch fire

And you crash to earth.


All of you African leaders

And how many of you

A woman?






Angel Fiqriel


Abducting brides?  Passe.

These days you should pray,


“Angel of love,

With your bow and arrow,

Do you see what I see?

Please bring my love to me.


Empty your quiver.

Aim right for the heart

And open the bud.

Let it bleed,

Bloom and burst into seed.”


Love works this way,

Although the priest doesn’t know,

Hung up on Satan and the angels

Michael and Gabriel.


But if the priest asks, tell him

Your modern love poem.

If he asks about the part

With the angel who likes to pierce,

Ask the priest,


Is my angel, Fiqriel, as fierce

As Michael,

Who cuts off heads?






Tell the President


In America they say,

Dream and make

Your dreams come true.

They call it

The American Dream.


In Africa they say,

The President dreams

Everything for you

And calls it

The African Dream.


Cream of Africa,

Who dream

Of going to America,


Tell the President.

Shoot your own gun!

My son, my daughter,

Go west with the sun.






Her Picture


I wrote to Photo Studio

In The Hague,


Dear Photographer:


Make a portrait

Of my Eritrea –

An African,


But she won’t blacken your lens.

Fresh skin

Full blooded and brown,


She glistens.

Her teeth and wide eyes



I want her head to toe,

The whole body,

Not one of your Mona Lisas.


Forget the Venus de Milo.

Reveal the beauty

Of her hands


And her figure

As she stands,

Crushes a snake

With her heel

Like Mother Mary

And looks at me.


Also show how colors flash

From her dress

With her shawl, kerchief and sash.


Patience, Photo Lucas.

Patience, Foto Zula.

She’s in Europe now,


But someday in Asmara,

Ambling on Liberation Avenue,

She’ll come to you

For her picture.




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Reesom Haile

Charles Cantalupo



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