The dead man was no one,
just a man in tattered clothes,
just a coin in his pocket,
no id cards, no bus ticket.
He was a nobody,
dirty and skinny,
a no one, a nobody
who clenched his hand before he died.
When they pried open his fingers,
they found a whole country.
Copyright 2018 Hama Tuma. Translation by the author first appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hama Tuma studied Law in Addis Ababa University. He became an advocate for democracy and justice. This has caused him to be banned by three different Ethiopian governments. This situation sharpened his use of satire and he is known as one of Ethiopia’s greatest satirists. He has travelled widely but currently lives in Paris with his wife and daughter. His books have been translated into English, Italian, French, and Hebrew.
THE 13TH ANNUAL International poetry festival in Berlin was held in Berlin from June 1 – June 9/2012 and Hama Tuma was one of the invited African guests.