It’s a deep purple thought;once it unraveled prematurelyand its tail broken, leaving a faint trailof rummaging words.
When I was little, growing up inAddis Ababa, my father boughtthe fattest sheep from street vendorsfor the holidays. He would
pull its curled horns, part the wetrubber lips to check the sharpnessof its teeth, grabbed its tail, separated
the hairs in the thick bed of fur. Later, he willbring it home, unsuspecting creature, tieit to a pole in the garden, feed it the greenestgrass until its sides are swollen and heavy. It will beslaughtered in the living room, kitchen knife
cutting in a precise angle through its neck, theblood splattered on the blades of grass gently laidby my mother on the cement floor, one lastcomfort before its end. Come afternoon, it willhang upside down, viscous wet smell emanating from its
insides, and knife slashing between slabs of organs,all to be eaten differently—bones of the rib cagedeep fried, bleeding texture of kidneys minced intobite-sized shapes and soaked in onion and pepper oil,small blades of the stomach dutifully cut into longstrips, and mashed with spiced butter and berbere. Eventhe skin, bloodying fur, will be sold to passing vendors, itshead given away to neighbors who will use it for soup. [End Page 148]
In September, the street shoulders of Addis Ababaflood with yellow daisies, creating patches of sunlightin rainy days. But every so often, a mulberry daisy isspotted, its head barbarous in a field of gold, dirtypurple in its becoming.
The first time I saw a plum, it was lying in a poolof swollen mangoes and papayas at a local grocery store,and I held it in my hand, wanting to pierce the luminousnakedness of the skin with my nails and teeth.
If you ask how to say “burgundy” in Tigrinya, you will betold, it’s the color of sheep-blood, without the musty smellof death attached to it. It’s also the color of my hair, dippedin fire. And the greasy texture of clotted arteries, and the foldingskin of pineapple lilies, and the sagging insides of decaying roses,and the butterfly leaves of blooming perennials, and spongystrawberries drowning in wine.
Right before dusk, when the skies are incised with a depression ofshades, oranges escaping from one end into the mouth of thehorizon, freckled clouds unclog suddenly, giving shape to thepelvis of the sky, its sheep-blood visible only for a second, thenbursting into flames of golden shadows. In days like these, whenthe sun’s tears are fat and swollen, descending obliquely into thecity, we say somewhere a hyena is giving birth, and perhaps it is.
And then, you ask, what is fuchsia—and there’s a faint smile, asudden remembrance, an afterthought in hiding, forgotten smellsof wild flowers and days spent in hiding, in disarray. And mulberrydaisies carried by phosphorescent winds into the warm skin of sleepingbodies; moments spent between here and there, pockets of emptiness—without sound, without reckoning. [End Page 149]
MAHTEM SHIFERRAW, who grew up in Eritrea and Ethiopia, is a poet, visual artist, and cultural activist, and the recipient of the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She received her MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. She has published in The 2River View, Blast Furnace, Blood Lotus, Bohemian Pupil Press, Cactus Heart, The Missing Slate, Mad Hatters Literary Journal, Mandala Journal, Blackberry Magazine, and Luna Luna Magazine. Her first poetry collection, Fuchsia, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press & Amalion Press in Senegal in 2016.