HIWOT ADILOW — NAME
i’m am tired of people asking me to smooth my name out for them
they want me to bury it in the english so they can understand.
i will not accommodate the word for mouth
i will not break my name so your lazy english can sleep its tongue on top.
fix your lips around it.
no, you can’t give me a stupid nickname to replace this gift of five letters.
try to pronounce it before you write me off as
the ethiopian jawn
or any other poor excuse of a name you’ve baptized me with in your weakness.
my name is insulted that you won’t speak it
my name is a jealous god
i kneel my english down everyday and offer my begging and broken amharic
to be accepted by this lord from my parents’ country
this is my religion
you are tainting it
everytime you call me something else you break it and kick it
you think you’re being clever by turning my name into a cackle?
hewhat? hewhy? when how he what who?
he did whaaaat?
my name is not a joke
this is more than wind and the clack of a consonant.
my father handed me this heavy burden of five letters decades before i was born
with letters, he tried to snatch his ethiopia back from the middle of a red terror.
he tried to overthrow a fascist.
he was thrown into prison
ran out of his home.
my name is a frantic attempt to save a country
it is a preserved connection
the only line i have leading me to a place i’ve never been.
it is a boat
a vessel carrying me to earth i’ve never felt
i speak myself closer and closer to ethiopia by wrapping myself in this name
this is my country in ink
my name is the signature at the end of the last letter before the army comes
it is the only music left in the midst of torture and fear
it is the air that filled my father’s lungs when he was released from prison
the inhale that ushers in beginning
my name is a poem
my father wrote it over and over again
it is the lullaby that sends his homesickness to bed
i refuse to break myself into dust for people too weak to carry my name in their mouths
take two syllables of your time to pronounce this song of mine
it means life
you shouldn’t treat a breath as carelessly as this.
cradle my name between your lips as delicately as it deserves
say it right.
Hiwot Adilow is a senior at Central High School. She is a first generation Ethiopian-American, womanist/femininja, poet, and jawn who hopes the art she makes to understand her own world inspires and comforts others. She has been a member of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement since 2010 and represented Philadelphia on the 2012 Brave New Voices Slam Team. Hiwot likes flowers, Philly, Fridays, and feeling happy. She will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall as a member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community’s 7th Cohort.