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Saba Kidane is a Tigrinya poet, performer and journalist who served in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front during Eritrea’s armed struggle for independence. Born in 1978, she writes about the war in which she fought and also about more everyday, domestic issues.

War and a Woman
English version

War and a Woman

War and a woman I sing.
A country
needs a woman
to find peace.

Only a woman
can sacrifice enough
to overcome fear,
win the fight
and still keep peace in sight.

Ready for anything,
she sacrifices herself
and gives birth,
rocking and soothing
like a lion

licking her cubs.
They grow with her love
but peace
demands more,
calling her back

to the trenches.
Guarding her children,
she still can’t refuse
such passion
or even think

of being tired,
parched, starved,
hurt or dead.
she takes a breath

and catches fire,
her breasts bouncing
as she races
to join her fighters,
marching and marching,

only she marches
for peace.

Translated by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash.
“Your Father”
Tigrinya version

English version

“Your Father”

Propped on the sidewalk
with a few coins near her legs
and a child wrapped in the folds
of her scarf worn to shreds,
she holds out her hand in the cold.
The modest bend of her head
says she doesn’t want to beg
but she must to feed her son.

Left on her own when he was born,
she cried and cursed her fate.
Where to go? What to do?
She had no other choice – the street –
but he went with her, too,
and now she sees he has grown.
“Let me show you,” he says,
putting out his hand to play.

At first it makes her laugh
to see him imitate
her begging in his own way.
She’s not totally hopeless
and can accept who she is
as long as she has him.
But then it hits her: what if
he has to beg for the rest of his life?

“Let’s play peek-a-boo or…”
she says quickly and afraid,
trying to make him forget,
playing this one over again.
He goes along with what she has said,
but one day he starts crying.
She says, “Let me kiss where it hurts,”
hoping to soothe the pain,

but then he kisses her,
and asks, “Who hurt us?
Who should I hit?”
and demanding the name.

“Your father.” She lets it slip.
Realizing what she has done,
she keeps quiet,
thinking she can still save her son.

Translation by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash.