camel Eritrean website featuring resources relevant to Tigre history and culture




Translated by Charles Cantalupo & Ghirmai Negash


Say what you like, but step over the line

And he feels his first scar burning again.

Smell the smoke. He has that true killer look

Because he always sees war – it's ugly,

And dirges play like soundtracks in his head –

Shimber, Hebo, Wazafin – constantly

Making him think, “Encircle, attack, attack….”


He sees enemies like sorghum bending

And breaking, their heads spilling out all red.

Never missing the target, his bullets

Fall like rain hitting the lake, and it floods

As in the days of Noah, only with blood.


Fast and taking too many forms at once,

He's blinding and leaves no time to react –

Like July lightning, thunder, downpours and

Fifty days straight of sandstorms uprooting

Boulders like arrows winging from the bow

Of the hero mercilessly slashing

The tendons, crushing and splashing the marrow.


Like rainy season torrents pounding down

From the highlands with more storms behind them,

He comes to fight, saying “Try and stop me.”

He crosses any desert, sets a trap

And waits for the strong to choke on their blood.

Crocodiles run away from his jaws.

He lives according to his law.


Wisdom lets a lion or tiger sleep.

Seeing him, you better stay far away.

Fakes and fanatics may think they're heroes

And pluck a whisker but then, catching fire,

Caught in the eyes where they wanted to play,

They have nowhere to hide and no more to say.


He throws the trees and rocks out of his path

And grabs his weapons – nobody's laughing.

Fields planted thick with mines, impossible

Desert sand and heat, crocodiles swarming

Rivers and gaping valleys in his way

Reveal him close and watching overhead

Before he leaves them choked with too many dead.


The third offensive explodes with sirens

And unrolls black clouds like giant bee hives

Disgorging armies fleeing for their lives,

Out of control, surrounding him like knives

And helplessly knocked away in the swing

Of his crushing sword – his entire flesh

Bloody and broken with wounds and lead as the field


Where he stands unafraid, letting no one

Flee as he fulfills the ancient lines,

Playing and singing them too: history

Repeating itself, prophecy come true

And the clear reality to witness:

Welcome to free Nakfa, Setit and Belessa.


Like thunder and lightning, it surprises

Enemy invaders and ululates

Continually to all who can hear

No matter how much bombing and terror

Our country and its people have to bear.

Since the invincible guards our borders,

No more battles like Adwa can take place here,


Though he has seen plenty dig their own graves

Thinking it could if only they were brave

Enough to face him and die, and they did,

And not until we see the Red Sea dry

Will the verdict be any different.

Adi Hakin, Adi Mirug, Deda,

Bada , the deserts and wadi of Dahlak


And the Gash, tumbling from the highlands

Down where the lions drink after their prey,

Also testify to the gift of life

Or death overflowing and in his hands –

In the end, perhaps, all that he understands,


Taking aim with his spirit and his gun,

Measuring the last breath of anyone

Who forgets him and casts the first stone,

And ready to bear every burden

And horrible fire demanding his blood

Yet strangely leaving the hero happy,

Even when he dies without finding his home.




Mussa Mohammed Adem (1963): Poet, short story writer and journalist.


He has worked in Tigre radio broadcasting since 1992.




All translations by Charles Cantalupo & Ghirmai Negash


Poems taken from:

Who Needs a Story?

Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic


(Hdri Publishers, Asmara, Eritrea 2006). 9994800086 | Second printing: Lightning Source. 9 789994 800087