My bride from the Simien Mountains

Sweeping, I am always sweeping
the muddy, red ground in front of our hut,
and singing songs of love and longing,
of ecstasy and muggy nights,
songs that only our skinny goats can hear
in the loneliness of the rough, green mountains

By and by, my skin has turned as dark as yours
while the days float by
and die, one by one, like mayflies,
and rain veils percolate from a leaky, white sky,
and sometimes a yellow glow pierces the morning haze,
and sometimes our chilly evenings gleam,
orange and ginger,
into a lightless night

You wear white smiles
and strong perfumes:
fresh coffee, berbere and mitmita;
together, we grind the teff for our daily injera,
prepare a skillet full of doro wat,
clap our hands

The first day, I've been bold and stupid, saying,
‘You and your people never really entered history.
Your present is too full of nostalgia
for the lost paradise of childhood
to leave room for progress.’
Showing me your big teeth,
you've just laughed,
‘I prefer our stories to your history.’

And then, you've started telling me
tales of foxes and hyenas,
travellers and brides,
donkeys and mules,
leopards, apes,
baboons and trees,
and weeks have turned into months,
springs into autumns,
and my hair has turned grey,
and my voice as gentle,
my lips as welcoming,
my smile as wide and warm
as yours

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