Songs We Learn from Trees, an anthology of Amharic poetry edited and translated by Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje, is forthcoming this week from Carcanet Press. Today's First Read spotlights a poem by Misrak Terefe, a prominent poet and peformer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her poem “Please come for me!”, translated by Chris Beckett and Yemisrach Tassew, vividly portrays the narrator's feelings of longing for an absent lover.
Misrak Terefe reads “Please come for me!” in Amharic and English.
Please come for me!
My body knows that spring is here,
the thunder in my ears,
my skin on tenterhooks,
my heart that breathes again…
all my senses start to fight,
split down the middle,
my eyes go separate ways,
left wells up missing you,
right searching you in crowds…
my nose splinters,
one nostril sniffs for you,
the other puffs out smoke from a cigarette…
body-signs announcing spring,
my feet itch and my heart beats faster,
my ears hear separate bells,
one pricks up at your step,
the other plays a memory chip…
even my hands that greeted you
forget they are a pair,
one waves goodbye,
the other thinks you may be coming back…
one leg rushes off to town,
the other only wants to follow you
or wait in case you pass by on the street.
But now perhaps the time has come?
my eyelids flutter,
heart beats in my mouth,
oh! come, please come and stitch
my senses back together,
bring this too-long waiting to an end,
come quick as quick you can,
come for me now, come back forever!
Excerpted from Songs We Learn From Trees, published by Carcanet Press. Original poem in Amharic copyright © Misrak Terefe. English language version copyright © Yemisrach Tassew & Chris Beckett. By arrangement with the publisher.