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Unjust Praise

by Ghirmai Yohannes
translated by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash

In the beginning
The spirit moving
Upon the face of the waters
And in the breaking waves
Tasted salt

And I see fields of it
Drying on the shore.
We let in shallow lakes of sea
To evaporate,
And the salt

Accumulates along their edge
Thanks to the sunlight:
Crystal white,
Enough for everyone,
Harvested and sold

In every shop and on the roads:
In proper measure
Bringing out the taste,
The flavor and spirit

Of our food, hot or cold.
Why should pepper get
So much admiration
When salt does all the work?

From The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. Copyright 2010 by Ecco / HarperCollins. Used by permission of the publisher. Translated from the Tigriny.
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