Home > poems > For I was there!

For I was there!

(Addressed to Christian missionaries of the world)


by Dr. Hailu Araaya


When the last trumpet shall have sounded

And all men shall have risen from the dead,

To the left of the Throne shall assemble a multitude-

Men and women with faces behind masks.

(Masks of arrogant blindness they had worn on earth

And now risen with them to betray them on judgment day).

To this multitude Christ shall say:

I was there,

In everything and everywhere,

But you saw me not.



Lord, when were you there and we  saw you not?

                                   when were you there

                                           were you there


                                                          and we saw you not

                                                           saw you not

                                                           you not                                                                                                                  not


I was there,

In everything and everywhere.

I was in the cold-beaten face of the Eskimo

Greeting you with a smile,

But you saw me not.

I was in the Pygmy of the Congo forest

Singing his molimo,

But you saw me not.


I was in the wandering Bedouin 

Roaming the deserts of Arabia,

But you saw me not.

I was in the Navajo, the apache, the Blackfoot and the Omaha,

The Paiute, the Shoshoni, the Cherokee and the Tuscarora,

Nations of men whose tongue conveyed what the heart contained,


I was in the Mayan, the Aztec and the Inca,

Peoples who spoke the language of the stars,

But you saw me not.


In ancient Venice, I was a Jew, in the ghetto;

“I must go to the market,” I pleaded with you,

“I need some nourishment for my hungry child,’

‘Some Ointment for the aching joints of my father,

‘And so oil for my lamp.”

But at sun down, you clutched me by cloth,

Dragged me to the ghetto, were you said I belonged,

I was herded with the likes of me in misery.

You locked me in the ghetto,

You called yourself a Christian

And stood sentry by the gates.


My child died of hunger,

my father died of joint aches,

and amid that curse I sat in misery

But you saw me not.

I was in the ghettos of Tunisia and Morocco, 

In Poland I was corralled

I longed for freedom and fresh air

But at Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau 

You made me breathe your poison gas

And you fed my body to the flames.

Though like a phoenix from the ashes I rose

You saw me not!

I was in the ghetto of New Babylon:

In the fatherless child that shared its crumbs with the rats,

In the defeated, they dispossesses, and the aged

Who, in their days, had bravely born the burdens of your land

But now waited in sad silence,

For bread from your begrudging hands.

Yes, I was in New Babylon,

In that forsaken land,

But you saw me not.

Yet, what you saw must have frightened you,

For you turned your back and fled

and buried  in suburban sand.


I was on the coast of Africa

In the mother that suckled a child by the sea

From a breast full of milk

but then soured by touch of new and cruel slavery;

I was in the aged chief sick to the soul

Gazing across the vast ocean that had taken many a warrior

To a life of slavery in a strange land.

I was I the millions of those shackled men you hauled across the sea

On the ship that bore my name:” Jesus Christ!” 


I was in those who died in anguish

and those whose bodies you cast overboard

To feed the fishes of the sea,

But you saw me not.

(O seas!Oceans! give up they dead

And let the spirits rise

To give testimony to the cruelty and blindness of these men.)

My voice was the million shackles clanging,

My voice was the million babies crying,

My voice was a continent wailing


Plagued by loneliness and want of men

My voice WAS!

But you heard me not.


I was in the soul next to your soul,

Within a reaching distance,

Anxiously waiting to sing with you

the song of life that for so long you had sung lonesomely 

Within the confines of your self-made prison,

but you turned your eyes away

And wandered a zillion miles,

For a zillion years into eternity

In search of me not.


Yet, how can you find me when you never lost me?

Wherever you went I was there

In everything and everywhere.


I was in the birds of the sky

In the creatures of the land

In the fishes of the sea;

I was in the purity of the waters

And the freshness of the air that you befouled.


This was the Pacific Ocean,

This was the Atlantic Ocean,

This was the Indian Ocean,

and this was once the Mediterranean Sea,

now dead  and filled putrid sludge

where cancer, polio, leprosy

And a hundred more abominations breed

An with sinister intent crawl out of that murk in waves

To plague your flesh, your sinews and your brains.


When the worms that never dies shall have consumed you thus 

Universal law shall be modified, by a comma;

Suddenly, the earth shall change its course

And with a speed of light, plunge you

Into the gaseous depth of the sun

Where the engulfing flames of hell burn you for ever, and ever…..


For I was there

in everything and everywhere

But you saw me not.


Quarterly Journal Afro-Asain Writings

No 46-4/80


Categories: poems
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