lördag 7 maj 2016

With some purple thoughts

    Det är dags för den sjätte delen i följetongen "African Poetry". Hittills har jag varit lite besviken på mina utvalda afrikanska författare. Men ikväll blir det blodfyllt, kan jag lova. 
  Jag vill tacka Nordiska Afrikainstitutet för att deras bibliotek redan har köpt in kvällens bok, trots att den har ett färskt utgivningsdatum. Boken heter "Fuchsia" och är skriven av Mahtem Shiferraw.


  Mahtem Shiferraw är den tredje poeten som vinner det årliga Sillerman First Book Prize för afrikanska poeter. De två tidigare vinnarna har varit Clifton Gachagua, Kenya och Ladan Osman, Somalia. Vinnaren väljs ut av redaktionsteamet inom African Poetry Book Foundation: Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, Bernardine Evaristo, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon and Kwame Dawes.

  Eftersom Mahtem Shiferraw är bokdebutant så finns det inte så mycket biografisk information om henne.

  Hon är poet, visuell konstnär och kulturaktivist. Hon växte upp i Eritrea och Etiopien men lever numera i Los Angeles.
  Hennes dikter har publicerats i The 2River View, Blast Furnace Literary Journal, Blood Lotus Literary Journal, Cactus Heart Press, Mad Hatters Review, Mandala Literary Journal and Blackberry Magazine. Källa: Prairie Schooner


  Liksom de tidigare afrikanska exemplen så skriver Mahtem Shiferraw långa dikter. Men när man läser hennes bok är det ingen risk att man vaggas till sömns. 
  Jag väljer att göra något ovanligt den här gången. Boken innehåller flera bra dikter, och hade de varit av kortare längd så hade jag säkert valt ut flera. Men jag nöjer mig med att publicera den fenomenala titeldikten, som samtidigt är en av de längsta i samlingen.

Fuchsia, by Mahtem Shiferraw
(from Fuchsia. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 2016.)

It’s a deep purple thought;
once it unraveled prematurely
and its tail broken, leaving a faint trail
of rummaging words.

When I was little, growing up 
in Addis Ababa, my father bought
the fattest sheep from street vendors
for the holidays. He would

pull its curled horns, part the wet
rubber lips to check the sharpness
of its teeth, grabbed its tail, separate

hairs in the thick bed of fur. Later, he will
bring it home, unsuspecting creature, 
tie it to a pole in the garden, feed it the greenest
grass until its sides are swollen and heavy. It will be
slaughtered in the living room, kitchen knife

cutting in a precise angle through its neck, 
the blood splattered on the blades of grass gently laid
by my mother on the cement floor, one last
comfort before its end. Come afternoon, it will
hang upside down, viscous wet smell emanating 

from its insides, and knife slashing between slabs of organs,
all to be eaten differently — bones of the rib cage
deep fried, bleeding texture of kidneys minced 
into bite-sized shapes and soaked in onion and pepper oil,
small blades of the stomach dutifully cut into long
strips, and mashed with spiced butter and berbere. Even
the skin, bloodying fur, will be sold to passing vendors, 
its head given away to neighbors who will use it for soup.

In September, the street shoulders of Addis Ababa
flood with yellow daisies, creating patches of sunlight
in rainy days. But every so often, a mulberry daisy 
is spotted, its head barbarous in a field of gold, 
dirty purple in its becoming.

The first time I saw a plum, it was lying in a pool
of swollen mangoes and papayas at a local grocery store,
and I held it in my hand, wanting to pierce the luminous
nakedness of the skin with my nails and teeth.

If you ask how to say “burgundy” in Tigrinya, you will be told
it’s the color of sheep-blood, without the musty smell
of death attached to it. It’s also the color of my hair, dipped
in fire. And the greasy texture of clotted arteries, and the folding
skin of pineapple lilies, and the sagging insides of decaying roses,
and the butterfly leaves of blooming perennials, and spongy
strawberries drowning in wine.


Right before dusk, when the skies are incised with a depression 
of shades, oranges escaping from one end into the mouth of the horizon, 
freckled clouds unclog suddenly, giving shape to the pelvis
of the sky, its sheep-blood visible only for a second, then bursting 
into flames of golden shadows. In days like these, when
the sun’s tears are fat and swollen, descending obliquely into the city, 
we say somewhere a hyena is giving birth, and perhaps it is.

And then, you ask, what is fuchsia — and there’s a faint smile, a sudden remembrance, an afterthought in hiding, forgotten smells
of wildflowers and days spent in hiding, in disarray. And mulberry
daisies carried by phosphorescent winds into the warm skin of sleeping
bodies; moments spent between here and there, pockets of emptiness - without sound, without reckoning.


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