The rose from Ethiopia’s virgin lands

landgrab2The rose from Ethiopia’s virgin lands

                                                               for Julio Monteiro Martins on the threshold of another kind of land


Vacant is the land

Barren is the land

Wasteland, wasted land

Unproductive barren womb

“We’ll make the desert bloom!”


Until the god of capital grabs it

Inseminates it

Makes it bear gold

In Wall Street and Abu Dhabi

And the fast train of twenty-first

Century progress

Feasts on Ethiopian buffalo and donkey

And thegoat  and the mule

To make roses grow where the cows

Used to roam

And strawberry, and peppers and rice

For supermarkets in Ottawa and Rome


Cargill, Cargill, Cargill

Prostrate in front of our new god

And the pastoral kids

Food aid in their plates

Learn their A B Cs

In Unicef notebooks

Not under clear African skies

But under steel structures

The crow staring in from the window

Hawks flying overhead

Free riding the currents


Beware the virgin rose

Beware the troubled land

Lest stock market hollow men

Bulldoze the soul

Of that barren land, the wasteland

Invisible the hand of the market

Grabbing the empty land

Teeming with invisible

Cows, goats, shepherd,

Where for thousand years

The passing of animals, women

And men and children  who called the water

With a stick and heard its song

Of life and transit

On the soft rails of land

The trail that would slip underground

When the rain would wash it into a river

And you could grab it no more

That land that sprouted a thorny flower

to the mules’s delight

That land that sprouted tender grass

Calves so relished


Land the color of man

And woman and child

Land the color of cow and sheep

And goat and donkey

Pastoralists they call them

Empty is their land where millions of hoofs

And sandals have treaded the millennia

Now suddenly turned into wasteland, virgin land

For the stock market to deflower


And the pastoralist forever moving

And grabbing space

And when the grass grows brown

And the earth’s belly needed to get round

They’d strike a few flames

And guide the delicate red fingers

Just to the edge of the forest

And then pull back because the mighty trees

And the bushes, and the vine and the sticks

Are what makes our lungs feed the blood and the limb

And you must render honor unto them

And not to the god of Wall Street

And not to the god of Abu Dhabi

Or turbaned millionaires

And not to the fast transit

That’ll take you in a jiffy to Financial Center

And its towers that scrape the sky


We scrape the land, bits of land to put food

Teff, enjeera and mutton and vegetable  on the table

Yet Abu Dabhi’s Stock Exchange demands

The rose, the rose, the rose,

Black hands tend it, cut it

Then store it in the hold and off it flies

To five continents

The pastoralist land of Ethiopia has birthed the rose

And Bengali children sell it at street corners

New York, Paris, Berlin, London, Rome

The desert has bloomed

In the hands of the Bengali child

And the by now withering rose

Is a real deal, half a euro

For your soul

Half a dollar for the ghost

Of the  breath of the goat

Trapped like dew in the petal of the rose.


Pina Piccolo, 18 December 2014