The Italian Riveter: TWO POEMS by Ribka Sibhatu, translated by André Naffis-Sahely

African Grandmothers

Lacking the wings
of an eagle,
resigned, she admires
the distant moon,
cuddling cats and dogs
no longer asking them
where our neighbours have gone.
She spends all her time
at home and school, reading
or asking how the earth was made.

Unable to find
the stairs to the stars,
and seeing that God
won’t answer
her questions, Sara
wants me to give her
the names and
the surnames
of our African grandmothers
whom Darwin declined
to mention in his book.


There are people who starve to death,
others who sleep rough in the winter,
and then there are those who fly
from one end of the earth to the other
to gape at eclipses.

By Ribka Sibhatu

Translated by André Naffis-Sahely

From Aulò! Aulò! Aulò!

Published by Poetry Translation Centre (2020)

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Ribka Sibhatu is a poet, writer and human rights activist. Self-exiled from Eritrea since 1982, she has lived in Ethiopia, France and Italy. She works as a court interpreter in Rome. She published her first book of poems, Aulò! Canto poesia dall’Eritrea in 1993 and in 2011 a bilingual edition of Tigrinya folklore, Il numero esatto delle stelle e altre fiabe eritree (both with Sinnos).

André Naffis-Sahely is an author and translator from Abu Dhabi, born in Venice to an Iranian father and an Italian mother. He has published The Promised Land: Poems from Itinerant Life (Penguin, 2017) and The Other Side of Nowhere (Rough Trade Books, 2019). He is the editor of The Heart of a Stranger: An Anthology of Exile Literature (Pushkin Press, 2020) and has translated Honoré de Balzac, Émile Zola, Abdellatif Laâbi, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Frankétienne.

Category: The Italian RiveterTranslations


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