The Sound of Silence

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My life, my poetry 

My life is bonded with war: from my childhood to my adulthood, from my daily routines to my every move, from my daily daydream to my nightmare. War was my life and my dream for more than four decades. War took everything of me, but the worst were the two brutal dictators: the Ethiopian Marxist and the Eritrean Maoist for 17 years and 30 years respectively. No free media or no other free medium, almost nothing at all to express your thought, idea, or opinion. Now my country is the second to none on planet. Then, I would like to see poetry through this frame. For me, poetry is something you could compose and recite under the nose of the securities, in the prison cells, even during interrogation and torture. Poetry is a solitary music that you could use to soothe your wounded soul. Poetry is a mirror that shows and replicates the image of the pain, the grief, and the sorrow of your every day life. Poetry is a logo that could be molded into many interpret-able images. Poetry is a brush that paints your anger, your rebellion, your anger. It is also a rhythmic hammer that bangs to break the fortress of the rulers – the silence.




*Translated from Tigringa by Tedros Abraham


The  Sound of Silence

At a time my shadow
drowned deep inside me
(I think)
wandering in a graveyard
wandering thoughtless

clotted silence
the silence had sound
with scribbled noise

flogged by the sound of silence
from myself

at the far field
I saw my soul
(I think)
in hazy dots



My dishevelled Picture

Let’s say I’m turned into a cane,
Set against a wall in the middle of a street,
Forgotten by a rushing owner.
(for this poem, let the place be Combischittato1)

Who implores with a smile to be picked up
By strolling passers-by.

Just like the upturned idea in this poem,
My owner took off putting me upside-down.

Just as, one turns up click-clacking,
Clapping gums and in her miniskirt.

Oops! How mind-blowing I beheld above,
And over her a murky angry sky.
(no idea maybe it’s because it isn’t upturned like me)

Meanwhile, one geared up with a camera to shoot me,
A talent, zooming in-and-out his squinting eyes.

Poor him! My feet and face, he sees, jumbled,
He thought my spilled smile was my shadow.


Combischittato1 = a main street of Asmara, capital city of Eritrea.



Love or Die

I loved you at dawn
So as you’ll be for my daytime;

I loved you in the daytime
So as you’ll be for my evening;

I loved you at dusk
So as you’ll be for my night;

I loved you in the evening
So as you’ll be for my dawn;

To be knotted with my heart
So that we’ll be in delirium;
Singing “Love or die!”
Swaying in its fervour.



Crossing Sahara

In the bonfire Sahara, an oven for earth,
The sizzling of our thirst, a sausage savour,
Was inversely mouth-watering to us.



Haile Bizen (Tigrinya, translated to English) was born in Asmara, Eritrea in 1966.  He studied Educational Psychology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and became well-known for his poetry and writing. He worked as a journalist and editor. After war broke out, journalists were disappeared, and he was considered a dissident. In 2009 he fled Eritrea and was an asylum-seeker for three years before being invited to Norway by ICORN. He has been elected the President of PEN Eritrea, which operates in exile due to the severe free speech crisis in Eritrea.


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