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Best Poems Written by Assefa Dibaba

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AMERICA'S HYPOCRISY or The School of Resentment

are you free, humanity, by power of love 
or in chain by love of power or by lack of it? 

a student of The School of Resentment asks…

back in time,
at such dominant spaces  
called Shunganunga, here
or Hora Arsadi, Malka Atete, Tullu Nam Dur, there—
where points of above and below meet
where people went to fast to be alone with spirit 

and  where Natives preached to their youth
the “Seven-Generations Principle,”
that every Native should keep in mind:

whatever decision she or he was to make 
in lifetime
would affect seven generations to come!  

now, Puritans came, 
and preached to the  Natives:

that they came to “PACIFY,” to “CIVILIZE”
and that God gave them the land—
a safe haven to be free from EVIL!

those freedom fighters 
sooner or later 
banned the Natives’ right
and burned, slashed and killed buffaloes
cut down timbers, and disrupted nature! 

now, Thomas Paine rose
and nailed the principle of independence 
and, at the same time, engraved 
the creed of Manifest Destiny
in the Common Sense:
that the coast to coast expansion 
was justifiable and inevitable destiny! 

now, Walt Whitman rose 
and hailed “sex contains all!”
in his “A Woman Waits for Me”—
an ode to procreation or miscegenation 
in which he strips 
women of their independence
and Natives 
of their self-assurance—
unlike his “Democratic Vistas”!

now, we have come too long a road
from “A Woman Waits for Me” of penis 
from the “White Man’s Burden,”
to "The Vagina Monologue"

and to sing:

No society can be immune 
to hypocrisy, social pretension, anarchism, oblivion,
until it refutes itself against its foundation values:

Manifest Destiny, Removal Act, Trail of Tears, Slavery,
and racism, the neo-Jim Crow—
going on everywhere and anywhere in disguise!

and to adhere to Democratic Principles!

in a society where economic freedom is at its center,  
Individual Liberty, for the Individual 
without Food without Shelter, 
is virtually impossible, manifestly a lie—
or it is only politically correct! 

now, before we go without going 
it is time for us to learn new prayers

and thus the Pastor leads the prayer:

there is no Poor on this land
only the Rich and the not-so-Rich

we are all equal!

now we are not in jail or in chain
now we have a gun to fire 
now, we can tear down Nature to see God’s face!

now, we embrace our Individualism

now, bless these couples:

he and he
she and she

we trust in GOLD!




Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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if youth knew, if age could

hey boys
hey girls 
how is life in water?

the old fish asks 

the young fish answers:

…good, same old shit

…good, just another day,…

they keep swimming 
up stream

how is life in water for fish?...

thinks the fisherman,
who never talks 
but stands on the shore
in the Autumnal rain,

looking at the dead 
young fish
washed ashore
and casting his net wide 
and wide 

and thinking: 

if youth knew 
if age could…,

thinking, casting, and pulling 

the net 
he widely cast,

now trying 
to narrow the net 
he cast wide

but in vain!

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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bridging the gap

when Spring River recedes 
we will break a ritual bread 
the lover plans

I would rather build a fence 
along the bank,
the woman swears 

at the daybreak, 
she calls a fence-builder 
to have him build 
a fence 
between her farm 
and her lover’s field  
on Spring River

say by fate or by will 
(or by divine intervention) 
the fence builder builds 
not a fence 
but a bridge 
over Spring River 

the lover thought, 
standing on the bridge:

bone-deep sorrows 
can distill the soul 
they don’t kill,
they harden and toughen
and cleanse and heal
the foul!

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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the great speech 
of great dictators
not so great...


they speak once to all
they speak all at once 
and they mean 
nothing at all! 

dictators make wars
out of the blue 
and talk 
and and and and ...

they know
young men 
love war
not because they hate peace
or they uphold patriotism 
just as alternative to poverty
war is a method of escapism
for young men...

simply, the theory is this:

better to be 
than house-mouse
during dictators' 
unstoppable long speech:  

while house-mouse 
has to watch TV 
sit and mourn,
field-mouse has got leisure 
to play horn!

hantuuta manaa mannaa
dalga-mureessa wayya 

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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poet to poet

three issues are at stake in poetry writing at present: first,  whether or not we can write an emotionally charged (subjective) material/topic such as love (loving, not loving, not being loved), freedom, and justice  effectively with artistic objectivity. This is more complicated by the notions of choices (and voices,) individual self-determinism, self-sufficiency, and individual sanctity over collectivism. 

Voices say this: Humankind have Choices, Choices have Consequences, Consequences have Risk or Reward! It is those Voices (heard or unheard) and Choices (risk or reward) that make lines or volumes and make us who we are as Poets--living and dying with our Choices!*

Second, we poets are of a tender-heart, vulnerable, and victims to violent shifts of response and emotions that relationships bring to us. We are sensitive, however, so being, we are beneficiary of human benign neglect and gross oblivion around. We do a great deal out of something ignored as trivia! 

Third, whether we poets are misfit in a misshapen society or we are misshapen at a misfit time, really I am not quite sure myself! But one thing I am certain about is this: the poet struggles with SOMETHING more than his/her own myth: to be able to see the relations of the unrelated, to curve out a creative originality, and to muse about if pleasurable pain (painful joy) is bearable and if living and loving truly is ever possible of to date! For no wrong life can be lived rightly! 


Less than that, what good is Poetry for?

*Listen to the Poet and Folksinger Leonard Cohen's "Choices"

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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to whom it may concern

lover! lover! lover!

you think human heart 
is an open page, 
a requiem to be read 
at leisure? 
or you think it a black hole,
impenetrable thick darkness
to peep through? 

what is essential to the heart 
is invisible to the eye—
a reason that knows no reason—

one can touch the depth of heart
by tracing the missing lyrics
by bracing the undying memories 
you love with all your heart 
although it gets broken often 
you write cathartically hoping
it’ll get better somewhere down the road
like this desperately romantic lover
who charts the poetic landscape of lost love 
in his "to whom it may concern":

my love,
back in the day when we first met,
I said this: 

in my culture 
a man is judged 
by the size of his farm field
as by the number of his children 
by the heads of cattle he owns 
by the peace he makes 
with gods, people, Nature
and with his personal chi—

my father had 10 children 
(all without Viagra) 
with two beautiful wives 
I am the first-born 
arrogant bastard 
who chose to be a bard
than a farmer 
and feels younger than the last-
born. hard to break 
soft to please
and you said, 
your love to me is
like the rain that always soaks 
your love to me is
like the light that always shines…
and I saw 
goodness in your eyes
eternity in our love
the fragility of being human 

in the rain 
I tilled the land
I sowed seeds of our love 
in the light 
I tended the farm
I reaped with awe 
the sheaves of its harvest 
I carried home the stocks 
thrashed, winnowed, 
deposited the grain 

I lived and loved 
with sure sense of purpose! 

of late, you grumbled:
now that the rain is gone
it is drought ever since 
you don’t plow 
our grain bank is empty
it is a wasteland
our land is laid fallow

when you left 
you left without trace
and I said: 
take the grace
take the grass
and the luck
with you
but your love

when you left it felt 
a direct insult 
to my sweet sweats 
tilling, tilling the land 
digging, digging the well 
towing, towing the water 

in those lonely nights
darkness crept in
one leg shorter than the other
smiling without a face
touching without a hand

the weather, now, after years,
is good all year long:

the fig tree you knew weak
thin and flaccid 
has now grown fully 
thick and hard and tall
in the yard

the rain rains and soaks the land
as water wets
the light shines and warms heart
as fire burns

not too cold, not too hot

just as ever! 

lover! lover! lover! 
can you see with your nose close to the mirror?

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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creative life

to wait
to encounter 
the unexpected 
are two lessons in life 
that I learnt 
the hardest way

also I learnt 
heroic perseverance 
into dire life experience  
from my father 

also I learnt 
to work hard 
the vast and last 
final way of fate 
from my mother
also I learnt 
from my people
personal integrity
redemptive power
of wisdom, oguma—
time was, time never is!
they say 
father and mother
they generate LIFE 
your culture
generates MEANING 

that life 
a ritualized 
of every day  

reenacted through 
countless mornings 
days, evenings, and nights 
that we are only aware of 
the increasing value of time
in life 
as it comes to pass 
too soon
in a form of 
ill health 
or the inescapable fate—

if you don’t have 
leisure, as a poet
freedom from work
to meditate
when you need to 
and domestic stability 
to sit and mediate 
between the inner monster (SELF)   
and the outsider rebel (POET) 
and to dig into 
your most deeply buried  gems

all that is is futile 
an offence of wasted life

it is this long process
of engagement in some Idea, 
of unended quest for TRUTH
of a continuous exploration of SELF
of the way out of Entrapment 
that they call CREATIVE LIFE—
that you two idiots are trapped in:
YOU and YOU— 

the SELF and the POET! 

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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in need of social medicine

the old man sees a doctor:

I am sick

I am not sick 

I am old…

how are you sick?
the doctor asks 

see? why should I come 
if I knew how I’m sick?

no seer asks the what or the how 
I am sick
she knows it:
she tells what rituals to do 
and to heal fast and last 
I’d rather see a seer
and go home 
and stretch my legs 
to my coffin length… 

he staggers to walk out 
turns to the doctor 
speaks to the patients 
in the waiting room:

I am as alive 
as many of the living!

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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oak tree meet

(another humanity) 

let us withdraw 
and sojourn in Nature
from this world 
of labor and knowledge:
physical labor 
destroys us
if we live to eat
spoils us
if we fail to live 
by what we know— 

Nature redeems us!

like Halloween night children 
let us tickle death 
under the armpit
and laugh close to Nature 
let us trick 
the gods and goddesses 
play hide and seek
fugitive to Nature:
for if we are ready or not 
there “It” is coming! 

let us sit
by the river of Life
the meandering water  
the crawling snake
the creeping vine
the sleeping rock
the roaring thunder 
on the edge of the horizon
the flashing lightning 
behind the mountain 
and see eternity 
in the grain of sand

let us come home
on the hilltop
and see
the coming shadow 
of eaglet  
soaring at a distance 
the consuming beauty 
of Being 
that rises from the Earth

let us warm our cold
gross nonhumanness 
feel the madness 
battled within us
seen outside 

let us return to the source
and pause and peep
through this window of the soul
to the unbounded expanse 
beyond itself 

beyond this humanity
across the burial mounds 
of dead dynasties 
dead empires 
dead democrats
dead dictators
dead communists 
dead fascists 

near the shrines 
of the living gods 
and goddesses 

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015

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to thanksgiving

taken away by the flight 
by the primacy of our own life process
we are all flies craving for honey
or we are pebbles— 
washed but never get cleansed! 

let us not be distracted by 
the disappointment of 
common human behavior 

we have to accept, how things are 
or rebel against
and so doing, we make it easy on us
or make it hard
the choice is ours
but both take the same labor:
when the going gets tough 
the tough gets going—

our ordinary madness is real
we are all feeble, crabs at times:

rushing to escape out of the bucket 
we are kept in eternally 
we step on each other
pull down one another  
caught in a stampede 
and reach  nowhere—
since we walk crabwise!  
we are such an orderly chaos—
a gross ENTROPY!  
let us listen to the voices 
to the crescendo 
and climax of nature 
that speak the gods’ voice  

let us listen 
to the moaning and meaning 
of love and light 
making every single day and night 
the voice that transcend 
time and space 
the voice that comes through 
our shared wall of darkness

let us decenter 
the dissonance of bad times 
the mournful solitary nights 
of hunger and sadness 
the melancholic fearful days 

let us not be distracted 
by the disappointment 
of common human behaviors,
flaws, greed, unbearable lightness of Being
let us act, let us make peace  
let us live  and let live in harmony—
half cooked half raw, as we are

let us toss and sip to the top—	

sifa! sifa! 


in love and light…

Copyright © Assefa Dibaba | Year Posted 2015