Martyrs and Martyrdom In this posting, I have hastily compiled some of the stanzas I have written on martyrs and martyrdom in the series Eritrea, Eritreans and Eritreanism I, II and III that I have posted before and a few more from an upcoming Part IV for this Martyrs’ day. Here is how they go: Creatures of ambiguity The guayla drums are beating. Is it a call to feast or war? The villagers won’t say. So much existential ambiguity in a dead animal’s skin! Micro-dammed in Eritrea The drums of war are beating; young men are pouring down the hills. Mothers hold hand in hand, damming this flood of men. But the earth too claims its share. Breast-fed thoughts When a nation at war with itselfinvokes the name of martyrs,mothers lose their instinctto protect their young,and spill their milk on dry earth. Territorial thoughts When a citizen’s thoughtis not free enoughto resist the gravity of the landso as to soar high above,it goes only six feet deep. Missing pages What is most notableabout the Book of Martyrsis not what it says but what it doesn’t say:what is all this sacrifice for? Because our martyrs died for it When there is no justifiable cause for the death of so many,the death of so manybecomes the reasonfor the death of many more. Ghedli’s folded hidri Guard it vigilantly and hand it overto the next generation.And lest you kill hope forever,don’t you dare open it.Portraits of the unsettling past As the father hangs his framed picture opposite to his martyred son’s he realizes this eye-ball to eye-ball stare cannot be sustained for long, and turns the picture to the wall. Waiting for the fallen How many knocks must pass before one knock counts? Now that it is all over, what the mother dreads most is a world devoid of knocks yet to come.Serial killing A mother gave all her children the ugliest names of all to ward off the Angel of Death. But the Angel had nothing to go by: only numbers tagged to their uniforms. Ghosts in the city As the old woman walked the streets she met a young silly boy that reminded her of someone from her distant, crowded past. It will come to me, she said, but never did. Reconciled in death When a victim and his killer appear in the same Book of Martyrs, nationalism becomes the only logic that reconciles impossible contradictions by reducing them to ashes. Three generations A mother lit three candles for her three fallen sons. Her toddler granddaughter tries hard to blow them out, as she wonders where the cake is. Wailing walls of Adi-Abeyto A teenager who had witnessed it all, all he could say was: “A wall collapsed!” He was too young to remember that the Wall had collapsed long before there were prison walls. Death by hanging in Tel Aviv (Z) The Warsai are adept at improvising with little – in death as in life. All he needed was a trash can to elevate himself and touch the sky. Shaebia’s past Despite doing everything wrong if a family remains healthy and plumb at a time of great famine, count and recount its children: it could have been eating its young! Archeological find in Asmara They dug and dug furiously. Yet, they were ordered to dig more because the historians felt it wasn’t deep enough to bury all the past. In the name of a nation When metaphors are all we have for reasons to live and die, reality becomes our enemy and blood flows in color only, as “red badge of courage.” Equality of the trenches The authorities ordered mothersto ululate seven timesat the announcement of their daughters’ martyrdom,at last granting them equality at death. The aliens cause The authorities said,“Your son died in an alien land.”She didn’t know which son they meant:the one who died in the Mediterranean or in Shaebia’s Eritrea. Grapes of wrath Looking for the fruits of ghedli?Seek it down there deep in the Mediterranean Seaor up there in your romantic head that refuses to see. 50 years of interruption He erases the past as soon as it occurs.Now, the only memento he hasis the eraser called ghedlithat he confuses for his heritage. The short age of a nation This nation has a habit of killing its children too youngto leave lasting memories behind.However it stretches those memories,they won’t last it a lifetime. … where no one dares to dig To keep their sanity intact,Eritreans attribute ghedli tsegatat to the deadand all the ills to the living,for fear of someone asking themwhere the evidence is … A generational voodoo The sound system in Eritrea is messed up:whenever people open their mouth,it is the voices of the deadthat come out. In the name of martyrs How does one defile martyrs’ name?Fools: by vandalizing their tombs.The sly ones: by invoking their namesto silence the rest. Lifetime in Eritrea As they take turns to lead,quicksand swallows them one by one.And the rest count their yearsby how far back they arefrom the frontline. A patriot never in the wrong The patriot refused to believethe nation’s sons died in vain.And more sons were sacrificed to defend that idea.Hey patriot, it has always been about you! The unbearable stench of nationalism Odorless as death,it took us by surprise.And only those who survive uswill be able to pinpointthe day we died as a people Six feet deep history When a nation’s memorygoes only six feet deep,all that it needs isendless supply of martyrsto fill it with. Sanctioning Eritrea Eritreans measure the worthof their nationby how many died for it,but the earthcan’t take it anymore. Meeting death half way There is no surprisein the long standing order of death in this land; only in the long line of mensearching for their names.Eventless horror The people have no idea of the horror they have gone through. They say it has to play out first before they can conclusively identify it. Even if it takes a lifetime!