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Hama Tuma: Just a Nobody

The dead man was no one,
just a man in tattered clothes,
no shoes,
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,
this nobody,
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.

2 comments on “Hama Tuma: Just a Nobody

  1. Tricia Knoll
    May 2, 2019

    It takes great power to pack such a punch in a short poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Saleh Razzouk
    May 2, 2019

    Please see the attached poem. I started my adult life with American African literature. We considered it as a symbol of human wish of freedom and equality.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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