Ites-Zine index

More Writings from Natty Mark

of the African School in Oxford & London UK

THIRTY PIECES of PRAYER and other writings    
Celebrating the Ethiopian Christian faith, in verse
Dedicated to Getatchew Haile, Selamawit Mecca and St. Yared

Page 2 / page 1 + index / page 3

to St. Zena Maryam
She refused milk,
It's offering of health.
Her life bolstered daily,
By the sermons of Jesus.
She declined honey,
It's song of tej.
Her life sweetened daily,
By the poems of David.
First to a cloister,
Then life in a cave.
Miracles still occur,
Upon her grave.
 © Natty Mark Samuels, 2014. African School.

for St. Elesbaan, otherwise known as King Kaleb.

In Matthew  19:21, there is that well known verse, from that conversation between Jesus and the Rich Man - concerning the giving of his wealth to the poor. Emperor Kaleb, the subject of this piece, not only gave up his wealth - but gave up his kingdom too.
He gave everything up. This conquering hero of Christianity, who took ships across the Red Sea, to defend the persecuted, wailing in Himyarite Yemen. New champion, honoured in Constantinople, as well as Axum. Magnified network, enhanced trade; the apogee of Axum.
But at the height of  his popularity, his international esteem - he changed velvet for sackcloth. He turned his back, on salutations and  stardom. One night, he removed his crown for the last time, to don the garb of an everyday penitent. Into the night he went, trodding; until he reached the doors, of Abba Pantelewos Monastery.
He remained there, for the last fifteen years of his life. Praying, fasting and praising God. How does a man volunteer, to go from being  the Emperor, to being a monk? From King of Kings, to a hermit? A Kingdom for a cell.

© Natty Mark Samuels, 2014. African School.

for Abba Pantelewon
I heard that he remained standing in his cell, for nearly five decades -  praying for the penitents. Giving succour, to those poor in spirit - strength to the ones, slumping in physical decline.
They must have walked up Bet Qatin, overflowing with hope -  desperate to hear his words of solace. Walked as fast as possible, arms outstretched. They came to see the Standing Man; to receive a prayer – the channel to a possible miracle.
Descending the hill, a look on their faces, as one who has conversed with angels. Hill of hope and healing. He was the bringer of balm, as prescribed by the Medic Almighty.
When I think of people who stood their ground, unshakeable, I think of one of the Nine Saints; Abba Pantelewon, the Upright One.

© Natty Mark Samuels, 2014. African School.

a poem for voices
to Sister Mary Ites, of Rastaites. For all that she does.
They say that behind every great man, there is a great woman. So it was with Tafari Makonnen, a young man, from the Ethiopian nobility.
From 1911, the year of their marriage ceremony, until 1962, the year of her physical passing; Menen Asfaw, became his trusted confidant and adviser. This princess, born in Wollo province. It was said that at their first meeting, there was a recognisable mutual attraction.
With a deep faith in God and an abiding belief in each other, they generated an aura of love.
For fifty years, he turned his ear to her; his beloved wife of quite wisdom.
1st Voice
So if you chant Ethiopia,
Sing of Empress Menen too.
When unravelling a puzzle,
She sometimes deciphered the clue.
Another day begins,
I see her rising from the bed.
Humming to herself,
From the repertoire of Saint Yared.
Everyday began with prayer,
Invocation before sleep as well.
She was joyful at the ringing,
Of  every church bell.
She who had funded the restoration and building,of many churches and monasteries; especially of those, located in the poorest areas. Money from her own resources; land of her personal holding.
A devout woman, who always gave. Of her time, skills and finances. Like a patron saint of generosity.
2nd Voice
Both these dreamers,
Wanted education for all -
For female as well as male.
She founded Siwaswe Birhan School,
For those of without sight;
For those in need of braille.
She saw the children,
Eyes tearing -
Tortured by trachoma.
Worsened by the sun,
The omnipresent dust;
The daily need of fire.
Blinking became painful
When lashes turned inward -
They call it 'Hair in the Eye.'
Infection of eyelids,
Scratching of the cornea;
A micro-organism and a fly.
So she supported hospitals, as well as schools; for healthy bodies, ready to learn.
 Took seriously her position, as Patroness of the Ethiopian Red Cross. During the bombing, she went from place to place in a car; dispensing first aid – uplifting the fallen.
Like her beloved, manning a gun at the front; she also spent time, in the heat of the battle.
1st Voice
Against their three hundred
What could six planes do?
The dropping of something new.
2nd Voice
The removal of Marshall de Bono
1st Voice
Became the curse of Badoglio
2nd Voice
Women and children too
Died from the deadly gas;
Foot soldier as well as the Ras.
1st Voice
The removal of Marshall Bono
2nd Voice
Became the curse of Badoglio
She took all her roles seriously. Like that of Patroness, of the Jerusalem Society. An organisation of her founding, to facilitate pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To make it easier, for those who wanted to draw strength, from the holy sites: and pray in the Ethiopian Church, in Jerusalem.
1st Voice
She would go there herself,
During the exile -
To pray for Ethiopia.
She built a church there too,
On the banks of the Jordan River.
Visits to Jerusalem,
To kneel again -
Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
To shed a quiet tear,
And converse with the Creator.
Are you getting the picture? Beginning to understand, the depth of respect, between them. The reason why Ras Tafari broke with tradition, at the time of coronation. Coronated Princess Menen, the same day he was. In the past, this would have happened, three days after his.
As an example of his devotion, they walked out together, from St. George Cathedral - Empress Menen, alongside Emperor Haille Selaisse.
1st Voice
Crowned side by side -
A joint mandate to provide.
2nd Voice
They walked out together -
Two birds of one feather.
How it must have torn her heart, to see him on his return, from the front. Tired, worn out. Slow step of mind and foot. A man approaching desperation.
1st Voice
When despair came near,
Feeling faint.
She'd sit beside him,
To talk of the trials,
And the victories -
In the lives of the Nine Saints.
2nd Voice
And when 'her school' was hit,
By a bomb entitled demolish.
He offered to help rebuild it.
In 1942,
After liberation -
Reality followed the wish.
In 1942, as well as the rebuilding of the Empress Menen School for Girls, she founded the Empress Menen Handicraft School. But first, let me return to the former. This school for girls, probably her most well known project, was founded in 1930 - the first school for girls in Ethiopia. It took borders, as well as day students. She made regular visits there, officiating at the graduation ceremonies. Enlarging its student intake, as time went on.
1st Voice
Like her husband sending young men,
She funded female foreign studies.
They held the dream in tandem;
Donated their palace,
For Ethiopia's first University.
The Handicraft School was a training centre for artisans, female as well as male. Offering instruction, in crafts such as silver working, embroidery, carpet weaving and dyeing. As well as English, Maths and Amharic. New aspirations, for the common man.
2nd Voice
Emerging from the Handicraft School,
Came the people of skill.
Smiths, weavers and dyers;
To help their country,
Surmount the feudal hill.
She did so much. This woman who knew personal tragedy as well as national mourning. Her life with Ras Tafari, was blessed with six children. They buried their daughter, Princess Tsehay, in 1942; their son, Prince Makonnen, in 1957.
1st Voice
Their children below the sod.
They wept together,
Continuing to follow God.
Seeing light through the dark mystery.
2nd Voice
Lived without pedestal or perch.
Her Fridays of special prayers,
Immersed in a chapel or a church.
Never strayed from the path of humility.
They dreamed and implemented together. In his endeavours to eradicate slavery, she set up schools, to educate those who were formerly owned.
They were the prop and pillar of each other. Through external manipulation and internal conservatism. Through war and asylum. Like an eternal treaty, between Sister Solace and Brother  Boost.
1st Voice
In the time of exile,
In the city that loved them;
I imagine them walking,
Around Victoria Park,
And the gardens named Empress Menen.
2nd Voice
Sitting in the garden,
Of a haven called Fairfield Villa;
Eating fruit,
Drinking coffee,
Homesick for Ethiopia.
1st Voice
His Majesty said of her,
''She was without evil or malice.''
For five decades,
Through shared vision and mutual support,
They drank from a loving chalice
2nd Voice
She travelled on horseback for forty-five days,
To marry Ras Tafari.
From Addis Ababa to the city of Harar,
A union destined to be;
Guided by the Most High
©Natty Mark Samuels, 2012. African School.