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Poetry From the October 2012 issue: Oil



Hallelujah for Demos,
Hurray for the glory of Kratos!
The barren relic of Old Athena
A figment from the famed city of yore.
A toast for Demokratia
The monument to the triumph of self-rule
For the chosen few of them,
Not even a tenth of the demos
Not for the women, the slaves and the children.
Shame on your charade Athena
Shame on your phonymotherhood
That brought forth an impostor
A miscarried demokratia
And inflicted it upon
A trusting, gullible world.

Are you proud Athena
That your imposter still lives on?
Do you rejoice in your heart
That your stillborn holds sway
Over the foolish hearts of men
Who die and kill in its name?
But you know very well, Athena
That your birth is a travesty
And the blighted fruit of your womb
Is nothing but a mockery;
You have known it all along
That Demokratia equals Equality,
Only in the words of Socrates
That it is the fountain of Freedom,
Only in the diction of Aristotle 
That Demokratia is a chimera
A shadow forever pursued
By myriads of naïve mortals
The blessed many who believe
Without seeing.
© Surafel Wondimu. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Fasil Yitbarek. All rights reserved.

Surafel WondimuSurafel Wondimu

Surafel Wondimu was born in 1974 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He obtained a degree in English Literature from Addis Ababa University (AAU) in 2006 and an MA in contemporary cultural studies at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at AAU in 2010. He has served as a lecturer and assistant dean in Humanities at AAU and also ran a private media organization called Aesop Communication, along with a nineteen-hour radio program on FM 97.1. In his academic and artistic endeavors, Surafel grapples with questions that stem from where he lives. His central question is "What does it mean to be human for a citizen" of this divided world, of Africa, of Ethiopia. In his scholarly, theatrical, and media work at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopian National Theater, and Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency, he has strived to address questions of power and subjectivity as reflected in Ethiopian cultural and literary productions. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Minnesota in the Theatre Historiography Program, minoring in Developmental Studies and Global Change. He was most recently awarded the prestigious ICGC-Mellon Scholar Fellowship and an August Wilson Fellowship from Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul.

Translated from AmharicAmharic by Fasil YitbarekFasil Yitbarek

Fasil Yitbarek is an Ethiopian author, poet, translator and teacher. He lives in Qatar, serving as English Lecturer at the University of Qatar. Fasil is the author of an English novel, The Texture of Dreams, and has also published a collection of Amharic poems called Embilta. He has translated Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground as well as written a biography of the Ethiopian Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Soaring on Winged Verse: The Life of Ethiopian Poet-Playwright Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin.