Friday, March 6, 2015

THE ORPHANS OF ADDIS ABABA


“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 here.

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 wrote this poem in 2010, inspired by Melissa Fay Greene's There Is No Me Without You. This book tells the tale of Haregewoin Teferra's heroic efforts to save children orphaned by AIDS. Inspiring us to do what or large things we can, in the corners where we are, to make this world a better place. 

posted (early) for the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where there are always wonderful offerings on Sunday morning.

33 comments:

  1. This is a very moving poem, Sherry. Just this past week at church I heard a talk by a minister who spends 6 month of the year in Tanzania, has seen to it that children have clothes and shoes so they can attend school, has provided sex education (as AIDS is rampant), has helped the widows (of men who died of AIDS) find ways to group together, has worked on fresh water and sanitation issues, as well as preaching and baptizing. We often forget there are people for whom shoes are a luxury & places where infant mortality may be 1 out of 3.

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  2. we are so far detached from this reality...
    across the sea, out of our line of sight...
    i have a few boys i mentored years ago
    that have bought a village in africa and are
    helping to raise them up...

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  3. far from the cameras, that would rather stalk "reality show" personae ~

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  4. You have written it beautifully. I wish you hadn't had to!

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  5. Some of these children leave and find their way through terrible ordeals to Sweden - the come in thousands every year right now, and a few get a place here. A sad situation, but I think at least that AIDS is finally starting to become less in Africa.

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  6. . . . "this continent
    of orphans . . ."
    "one small child 13 million times,
    alone and hungry ..."

    I get the picture so well that if I could send my breakfast for the rest of my life, I would. Thank You.

    Happy International Women's Day, SHerry!

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  7. sad reality and its time we listen to our conscience.

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  8. there are too many children that grow up without parents and hope - we support some orphans in a children's home in india - a small thing for us to do but for them it needs a chance for a future

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  9. One small story echoing the lives of countless other children. How important it is to speak out and show what really matters in this world...the chance of a future.

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  10. I hope whichever god we call to for comfort helps us when we need them the most...it is sobering isn't it...to even imagine that hunger...real hunger.. makes our own problems seem quite shameful in a way..although suffering is of course subjective..we all deserve a safe place to live and food in our tummies...peaceful Sunday to you Sherry...thank you for reminding me of the wider world again

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  12. sherry, once again you've filled that indolent space we all hover in day after day not so conscious of those in need. we, the human race, continue to finance and support a mission based on destruction rather than repairing and reconstructing. here in the united states of america we can't even get our republican leadership to visit the memorial of the 50th anniversary of our civil rights. they care little of people our nation has historically subjugated, people of color, women, lbgt community, the indigent, the elderly, etc, etc, etc...

    your lovely words incites this conscience of caring. the beads in the abacus of life are running out. hopefully in its next turn the world will be a better place.

    gracias mi amiga

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  13. salute to the grandmother taking care of everyone.

    hopefully their cries can be heard and will be comforted soon.

    harsh realities... thanks for making me reflect Sherry

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  14. Sherry,

    Another moving account of the serious state of affairs in so many countries and cultures across this great wide world of ours. There are days, when guilt engulfs my heart, and shame lurks in my soul, as I sit in front of the TV, sipping on my morning coffee, when a close up of a hungry child, 1-800 number printed across its forehead, fills the screen, until the program returns, and its face is lost and forgotten, again.

    I belong to a philanthropic committee, here, in the village, where each member contributes a cash amount, the total going to assist a different person(s), each month, who are less fortunate than we are. It's something, but so much more can be done, always.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Poppy

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  15. The call of this poem (and of the book that inspired it) is loud and necessary. So many suffering... So many not caring... Maybe they'll hear this.

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  16. We all can do at least a small things to help the homeless and sick children in the world. Powerful poem and the book, inspired it.

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  17. A very painful tale.... need more voices to be raised against such evils.. Very thoughtful of you to have shared the matter here, Sherry.
    Beautiful writing, as always!

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  18. a very moving poem, Sherry.
    yes, we wondered how some countries can sink to such serious state of affairs. those governments are unable or unwilling to tackle such issues, and funds ended up in corruption or wars.
    we can help alleviate some of the sufferings, but ultimately the solution lies in the people.

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  19. This is so powerful & sobering. I sat down to write this after pouring myself a second cup, sad because I was out of cream.

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  20. little prince of the roadway - such a moving line - how many little princes and princesses are in the world - thank you for this sobering reminder - not only to try to help but to be thankful for what we have

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  21. You are so right, Sherry. We take our lives for granted. This inspires me to give today to someone who has less than I. Thank you, Sherry! xo

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  22. Oh these poor helpless children ~ what a sad tragic story. Your poem brings awareness to the plight of these orphans. How wonderful of the grandmother who takes care of them. If only more people showed kindness, children would nor go hungry. Such a poignant poem, Sherry.

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  23. I join you in your hope for those prayers, although we never really know for sure what happens to many of our prayers, do we?

    Whirling in Baja California

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  24. I join them in their prayers for help with this epidemic and helping all these children....millions is hard to fathom as I sit in my comfortable world where I am indeed lucky for every single thing I have. Powerful and humbling.

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  25. This is so sad and a reality for so many children. Once again you have written from your heart. I hope prayers get answered someday.

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  26. ah yes we must keep them in our prayers
    thanks for dropping in at the Sunday Lime

    much love...

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  27. Your words make us see and feel that which we are so far removed from. You, my friend, have the heart of that grandmother who feeds those children,

    Elizabeth

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  28. Wow. An extremely emotional write and read. It's become a little too easy to forget the suffering of others as we bask in our privileges. Your writing has definitely struck a cord with me this morning.

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  29. I've been away. Am catching up on your posts. This one melts my heart. I feel a little guilty afer visiting my privileged grandchildren. Wish I could do more in my little corner of the world. Your post makes me happy though, to know there are kind and generous people who devote their lives to others. Thank you Sherry.

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  30. It's painful and, it's the reality. I wish everybody one day will listen to the conscience and, humanity will be saved...

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I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!