Serious People - I

by Ararat Iyob


God does not allow  (1)

(Travels of an Eritrean child)


I could not say much as they told me

There is a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”

as you will soon see, it was 1961 AD

so don’t talk, don’t ask questions please


I thought okay then let me go as I please

to the land of the mighty where the animals speak

and the trees and flowers have their own gods to keep

I might then find a place to be and be me


So I traveled to the south looking up and down

past Victoria’s Lake and the long White Nile

I saw the jungle, where the river mosquitoes’ bite

Not until I reached Rhodesia was I told to stop


Ian Smith, Ian Smith, another no place to talk

amazing how a stranger can make all the law

go back to your imagination; let it stay its course

so off to the west I flew in search of lore


I found ghosts lurking in the Savannah

while ships came ashore for slaves

and the fires started burning

in the phase I had come to fear


Every time I came back to town

where the same things lurked around

telling of talking trees and ghosts

“heresy” they told me never to talk

of things like that


“We” do not have them, they said

please go out and pray

I cried and shouted I wanted trees

that talked and birds that moaned

I needed someone to play


It took thirty years more

for the whys to sink in

We were on the Red Sea, by God

and only had prophets who talked

None, others of nature could touch


So it was and became to me

I now knew why I could not see

ancestral ghosts lurking in the cemetery

our God does not allow such things, you see


African Night Club (2)


How to differentiate

them one has to know

they are American after all

African American

Alright!! Hold on!

Blues and jazz

pain and Charles Brown


They are alive

music thumping the

small wooden floors

Dance, move, this way and sway

feel good! feel good!

The loud thundering refrain

is hold on! I’m coming

there is an earthen jar

on the door!


Curly hair and brazen hips

Kissing the girl on the shoulders

Swinging to an African theme

While talking Pan Africanism

Hold on I am coming

Africa the motherland

On 18th street


You are not the Man

They could swirl and shake

And dance all night

and become American

even if they do not know it yet.


The Flame Tree (3)


Along the river Nile, I met the Flame Tree

its long limbs stretching to the sky

the blue hues along with clouds

became the canvas for its drawing


Its red-hot flames poked out from the greens

yellow flicker of burning sunshine

telling me that fire burns otherwise

soft petals glowing with color


I found my tree again in Eritrea

on the road south of Mendefera

the vehicle could not stop

so I said goodbye till next time


Walking down a familiar slope

Near Queen Elizabeth square

heavy clouds threatening with rain

I suddenly looked at my left

and there it was under a neon light


I have been waiting long enough

to sow the seeds of “halhalta[1] of the tree

matchmaking its wedding to the Jacaranda

to make Asmara a rainbow city



[1] Flame in Tigrinya