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

lil one


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 plane

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

it’s Hiwot

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.