North American office: P. O. Box 53022, Medford MA 02153. U. S. A


Human rights week observance and electronic mail conference

Dates: 3-8 March, 1997
Dedication: To past and present Ethiopian men and women who gave up their freedom, family, friends and career to struggle for a democratic Ethiopia

Awetu Simesso, Professor
Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

These eyes now languid
Once looked God in the eyes
These fingers now blue and black
Once labored nimble
Crafted the El Dorado
These legs now stiff
Once strode the lion's gait
This face now twitching uncontrollably
Once lived a prophet's portrait, calm and distinguished.

No more that voice that murmured like a brook
No more those soothing words
Whose cadence was surpassed
Only by depth distilled from learned minds
Alas, he's dead.


"He died a natural death while in detention;
"his heart just stopped", the Doctor tells me.
They've been civil, polite.

At thirty?
That strong and healthy youth?
Just die!

"Why was he here to start with?" I ask,
and add under my breath: "in this filthy, urine factory?"

It reeks of urine. It is a "camp", supposedly a re-education center.
They herd them in and out by the thousands.
Maggots and rats abound.
The food is filthy.
The wardens can be fiends when they feel like it.
Some torture and molest at will.
Old men and women, underage girls and boys walkabout
Dazed, solemn, quiet lost to themselves and time.

As the head warden babbles some excuse
A word catches my ear...
What, he?
His life speaks otherwise
He is a patriot brand...

Oh, he admonished you,
Told you to leave his land, did he?
Said you were thieves
Refused your bribe
And for that you detained him

Official word is out...
The "coroner" corroborates the heart caved in--arrythmia!

And suddenly, I realize
They're all in league...
The judges and the wardens
The press advisors and the priests
The counsellors and expatriate consultants
My friends are not my friends
But dancing partners in the courtyard of death
I know that he was poisoned.

I burned his corpse, that was his wish
His folks, the courts
The parishes and zealots
They battled me, said it was sacrilegous
Break with tradition
I fought them with his word and won.

Now my chopper lifts
The dirty, dusty shanty town
Grows smaller, disappears
We hover over ridges green and suppliant


At last we have arrived
at a lush forest island in a small valley
Where I spray his remains
As he had asked.

Now back in my melancholy, I brood
I know not what grows there

Perhaps the crystals, boring holes through leaves and roots
Make way to the cataracts
After a million years emerge diamonds

Perhaps the poison will bear fruit
Per chance mixed with his boiling blood
Nursed by clean tears
What then, dear God?

Perhaps a new foliage rises
Under the panoply of a ghost
With taut limbs and e'er abundant hair
A new species sprouts, strong and defiant
Dear God, what then?

The beautiful and true
Snatched before his time
When his song shall ensue
What then?