Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Orphans of Addis Ababa


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“Allah, Allah,”
comes the morning chant
from the Grand Mosque
and, in their huddled blankets 
stir the orphans
of Addis Ababa.

The dispossessed of the earth
make their cooking fires
as the sun comes up
across the shanty rooftops.
Donkey hoofbeats clop
along the pathway.
Rooster cries
pierce the air,
as children stir,
their hungry eyes
remembering
those they love
who are
no longer
there.

What will this continent
of orphans
eat today?
As we go about
our placid, well-fed
weekday,
our second cups of coffee,
our comfortable knowledge
that we will eat later 
this same day,
little Mintesinot,
prince of the street,
leaves the marked off
square of earth
where he was lying,
where he has lain in blankets
the four years
since he was born,
where his mother died
and his father now lies
dying.

With tears,
he is moving
to a two room shack
where  60 other orphans
are being cared for
by a tired but indomitable
Grandmother,
who keeps on
keeping on
because someone has to
feed the children,
so she is
trying.

Little Mintesinot,
young  prince of the roadway,
has become the 13 millionth
AIDS orphan,
a number so large
the mind shuts down,
unable to process
what this means:
one small child
13 million times,
alone and hungry
with no parents
and no dreams.

“Allah, Allah,”
the chant continues,
prayers rising
on the wafting smoke
into the atmosphere.
Hopefully
they will
find their way
straight to
Allah’s
ear.



 [I stumbled across this poem, farther back on my site, inspired by the book There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Far Greene, which I read some time last year. The author writes about Haregewoin Teferra’s valiant efforts to care for the orphans brought to her small compound. Reading about life reduced to the simplest, most basic scale reminds me not only to be grateful, but to find  ways to do even a small fraction of what she does on a daily basis, to make the world a better place than we find it.

Decided to post it again - I have forgotten about so many poems back in the archives :) ]

18 comments:

  1. This is so sad and heart breaking Sherry ~ I am grateful of what we have when I think of all those poor orphans ~ Thanks for sharing this ~

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  2. Powerful Piece. Keep sending your work out there. Perhaps each reading is a prayer. What struck me more than any other thing here is the 4 years in the one tiny square . . .it hurts.

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  3. This is so heartbreaking. We sit in our blessings while children starve...what has humanity become?

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  4. Just the name of this book is extraordinary. You know Sherry you have such a large heart ... given freely to many daily. I wonder if you realize how much of yourself it is that you give.

    Some give upon a large scale in far away lands. Some give at home and next door where otherwise there would be no one there. (((Hugs))).

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  5. The 13 millionth AIDS orphan. Prayers rising upon the smoke. Amazing words. Amazing facts.

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  6. Sherry what an incredible poem!! You captured everything from the scenes to the mind shutting down (that is exactly what happened when I read that number.. and then you called me on it). This needs to ge published. Amazing.

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  7. Heart breaking. You know my thoughts on this. There is so much that can be done to help these kids & their families trouble is, they have nothing we in the west need. If they had oil or any other type of resources we could exploit' wekd be ther in a heartbeat. Thank God for people like the grandmother & you who don't turn a blind eye.

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  8. This is so heartbreaking. There is so much suffering in the world. I can't help but think about the billions - yes, billions - being spent here in the US on a campaign for power. It's sickening.

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  9. So sad, Sherry. Thank you for heightening our awareness.

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  10. This social travesty is self-perpetuating, seems no end is in sight. Awareness is essential - at least the world will know it is happening somewhere in Africa as we speak.

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  11. Dear Sherry,You're a special lady. Good you brought this out in the light again. Humbling.

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  12. It is a sad situation...so much waste, so much corruption, so many dollars spent that could go to better use.

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  13. So glad you reposted this Sherry. They remind me of "my" AIDS orphans in South Africa. Working there that 6 weeks made such a strong strong impression on me. The tragedy, its magnitude, is so hard to comprehend for us so far away and so comfortable.

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  14. So glad you reposted this, what a wonderfully done, heartbreaking poem.

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  15. You always write such powerful things and stirs the mind so much.....

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  16. This poem will haunt me for a long time, Sherry. The feeling of impotence to help contrasts strongly with my comfortable life. How I wish I were young and fit, to do something to help.

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  17. as you say, our minds are unable to truly process numbers of that magnitude when each number is actually a child! and the problem is going to continue growing as the children grow... the ones who are lucky enough to survive. impossible to think of them and not be heartbroken.

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