Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrathu

Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu (Foto: © Stefanie Silber)

Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu is an Eritrean poet, journalist and writer. Until her release in January 2015, she had to endure six years under worst conditions in the Mai Swra prison, where she was arbitrarily detained without prosecution or trial. Since then, she is threatened with another arrest and she is on the run. Since December 2018 Mebrathu is a scholar of the Writers-in-Exile Program of the PEN-Center in Germany.


I am not a Poet

I love poetry, but I am not a poet
Poets fascinate me
But I never said, ‘I am a poet’:
because I have killed my courage,
wounded my conscience,
have closed my eyes, trusting my ears,
and learned how to live, deceiving my heart.
Because I resisted to sacrifice for truth, I walk down cast.
I have become the grave of my emotions.
Sir, you are wrong, you are wrong,
Madam, I am not who you say I am.
What is but a poet!?
What is but a poetess!?
Life’s cover is not its deeper [truth],
The tongue is not the emotion.
Having read, examined, and observed
Truth, love, conscience, and justice combined
The poet abides with struggle, for the sake of beauty
Listens to his heart
Advocates for the oppressed, whose tongue is imprisoned
Self-sabotaging to pay with his gasp.
The pen is his candle, emotion is his sword
The poet is the light and the candle
I cannot accept an honor that I cannot uphold
I want to be, not to act.

Poem by Yirgalem Fisseha; Translation by Ghirmai Negash