No Che Guevara here,
No monumental hero with his gun,
Just a pair of giant sandals
Statuesque against the sun
Thirty years of warfare
Are remembered on this site,
When an army wearing sandals
Freed Eritrea from its plight.
From Asmara to the Red Sea
At Massawa and Afabet
Sandalled men and women
Won battles no one will forget.
Odd that something so unwarlike,
So civilian, soft and frail,
Should symbolize a struggle
The world believed would fail.
Sandals are not made for marching,
Their sound is muted like a breath;
Goose steps can’t be done in sandals,
Sandals cannot kick a man to death.
In the red Asmaran twilight
An ancient bus goes wheezing by;
Ghostly women at the windows
Grieve for those who went to die.
A legless freedom fighter
Stops his wheelchair by the site,
Remembers the exploding mine,
And glides into the night.
In the presidential palace,
Seated at his gilded desk,
The former sandalled general,
Now booted, calls for fresh arrests.
Asmara, Eritrea. March 2004