እሳት ወይ አበባ – Fire or Bloom English Translation

Fire or Bloom
Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Bahrnegash Bellete
/In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:/
And thus, like you and I, he whose eye for beauty has gone blind
whose wings of perception have gone stiff
not blessed with imagination
whose eye for beauty has gone dim
avers the sky is darkness, not bloom.

The wretched one.
* * *
The night, the stars, like spring
engulfing us with red daisies
the sky wearing a quilt
ornamented, shimmering
bright, bejeweled and glowing
lording over harvest and the garden of dawn
garnished with varieties of daisies
suffused with the scent of the new year’s crop
all being oh! my bloom
the moon out of its lid, its ornate bud
bursting out of its shell, oozing its fruity charm
having emerged like a virgin rose
ebullient luminous orb. . .
Unfurled youthful blossom
why then does he whose lens has hardened
his imagination taut
whose eye for beauty has gone blind
and his passion withered
say no, it is not bloom
no, it is not fire?


The wretched one. . . [End Page 46a] 
The sky is darkness, not fire, he denied
even as the furnace was ablaze in his eyes.
The stars like a torch
like golden flames
fluttering edge to edge
the bonfire roaring
glowing, smoldering
when clouds are aflame like a blaze
lightning coming down like wildfire
having fired a shooting star
lit fire in the horizons. . .
He, like you and I, whose eye for beauty has gone dim
avers the sky is darkness, not fire.
The wretched one.

* * *
Leave it alone, we won’t discuss.
You and I will not converse.
We are not blessed with conversation
just mum, mum. . . mum.
Whether we become bloom or fire
ensnared by the curse of desire
the calamity sparked by infatuation
as we labor through our days. . .
we will not become fire, nor bloom
choking over hiccups
our youth has been squandered, as we wallowed in tears. . .
We have feared, yes, love we have feared.
We have muffled the soul’s utterance
the ache of our life let, our labored conception’s voice
that which youth had conferred upon us
our divine anointment
our baptism by fire
which the God of love, in his wisdom, bestowed upon us.
We’ve feared, yes we’ve truly feared
We’ve been the breath of passion denied.
* * * [End Page 47a]
Neither separating nor keeping us together
bathing us in steamy sweat
limiting us to eye contact
keeping us neither near nor far apart
putting a fence of gossip around us
splitting us over hearsay
without our becoming neither fire nor bloom
confined to separate plateaus. . .
You and I will not converse
even if it pains us we won’t discuss
just hush, zip, mum.
Enough, spare me your memory
suffer me your sickening dreams. . .
As your eye wished death upon mine, were it to heed hints of rebuke
to die upon being told to die
to stay when told to go stay
to listen to hearsay
and abided when faulted
Amen, be gone all of it. Be gone the songs of birds
be gone, we won’t watch the moon
a mere pipe dream
idle illusive fortune
it won’t be gone, were it to, be gone when told to
it won’t be dead, were it to, be dead when told to. . .
Wouldn’t that have meant peace?
Do then, make peace with me over your pain
shield me from your distress.
Pardon me for your ache.
If you were to spare me, spare me, spare me your memory. . .
* * *
Why then is your voice so distant?
Why, your utterance become so weak?. . .
The glow in your eye deflected, as though pregnant with tears [End Page 48a] 
wavering over crying
forming a coat of pain and suffering
throbbing with passion
why has it remained in agony?. . .
How I wish I could wipe your tears
caress your sweat
come near your eye’s radiance, its flame
feel the warmth of its rays. . .
Though I may not reach you, approach you, evoking you in thought
reaching up over your breath
were I to reach you, caress you, stretching my soul’s tentacles
sniffing in pain your illusive trace, your scent
prostrate before the altar of your footsteps
the dirt I kiss will be neither fire nor bloom.
Since without love your tears are worthless
unadorned with ache
unless the guts are exposed, the vigor simmering
of your flame, your embers
your fluttering eyelids
your pupils, your light
of your flame…
Callaloo

Vol. 18 (1995) through current issue
CALLALOO, the premier African Diaspora literary journal, publishes original works by, and critical studies of, black writers worldwide. The journal offers a rich mixture of fiction, poetry, plays, critical essays, cultural studies, interviews, and visual art. Frequent annotated bibliographies, special thematic issues, and original art and photography are some of the features of this highly acclaimed international showcase of arts and letters.
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Current Issue: Volume 35, Number 3, Summer 2012

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