Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Ethiopian American Mahtem Shiferraw's Fuchsia examines conceptions of the displaced, disassembled, and nomadic self. Embedded in her poems are colors, elements, and sensations that evoke painful memories related to deep-seated remnants of trauma, war, and diaspora. Yet rooted in these losses and dangers also lie opportunities for mending and reflecting, evoking a distinct sense of hope. Elegant and traditional, the poems in Fuchsia examine what it means to both recall the past and continue onward with a richer understanding.


It’s a deep purple thought;
once it unraveled prematurely
and its tail broke, leaving a faint trail
of rummaging words.

When I was little, growing up
in Addis Ababa, my father bought
the fattest sheep from street vendors
for the holidays. He would

Pull its curled horns, part the wet
rubber lips to check the sharpness
of its teeth, grab its tail, separate

Hairs in the thick bed of fur. Later, he will
bring it home, unsuspecting creature,
tie it to a pole in the garden, feed it the greenest
grass until its sides are swollen and heavy. It will be
slaughtered in the living room, kitchen knife

Cutting in a precise angle through its neck,
the blood splattered on the blades of grass gently laid
by my mother on the cement floor, one last
comfort before its end. Come afternoon, it will
hang upside down, viscous wet smell emanating

From its insides, and knife slashing between slabs of organs,
all to be eaten differently—bones of the rib cage . . .

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