My knees are black —
with discolored skin.
They remind me
of Debre Zeit, and the sprouting god-trees
that overwhelm the city
in sweating heats and breaths.
Every time I shave, just above the legs,
and reach the protruding bones, right above
the tibia and into the kneecap, inaudible
thoughts sink in, and I, again
hear the whistling of the wrecked train,
strident gushing of rails from Addis to
Djibouti, and a little girl in blue and yellow
uniform picks herself up, covered in dust,
runs to the gentle fervent whistle
neglecting the sharp cuts adorning
the femur, the growing thorns, screams
of children, and the faint taste of swallowed
ants in her mouth.
But every morning
the wind is too cold
the yellow too bright
the whistling too loud
and she too slow
to catch the train
in its killing miracle.
~ Mahtem Shiferraw
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet, visual artist and cultural activist. She grew up in Eritrea and Ethiopia. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Her work has been published in The 2River View, Blast Furnace, Blood Lotus, Bohemian Pupil Press and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles.