Natural Remedies

Her body was racked with coughs. She felt aches in parts of her body she didn’t know existed. Her symptoms waxed and waned. She’d feel congested one moment, the other beset by a runny nose. Her head would throb, the pulse quickened with every cough which scratched her throat and made her chest feel heavy.

She treated her illness in the best way she knew how. Lemon ginger teas. Black seed oils. Basking herself in the steam of eucalyptus oil. Six cloves of garlic – cut up into tiny pieces and swallowed with milk to edge the pieces down her throat. Vix rubbed across her chest.

She did everything possible to avoid going to the doctor. She knew it would be a long wait, which she dreaded – especially in her current condition. She also knew that they’d most likely tell her it was the flu and with all flus, the best medicine was fluids and rest. Which she already knew. So why drag her tired, aching body out of bed, disrupt the rest they asked her to get and wait around in a cold, sterile, depressing waiting room for a doctor to tell her what she already knew? Plus, they’d probably end up giving her 4-5 different medicines she was sure were being pushed by pharmaceutical companies. Medicine her body didn’t really need.

—–
She brought her a big spoon of honey. In this household, and many others, honey was the cure for all. Particularly coughs and colds. She didn’t want to insult the bees but she knew her body had never warmed up to the idea of honey, unless in small doses with kita. Regardless she couldn’t get out of it. Her only point of negotiation was to take it with a slice of lemon. She squeezed the juice into her mouth trying desperately to lessen the taste of the honey, cancelling the too sweet taste with the bitter of the lemon. The nausea kicked in right away. Reminded her of childhood days when a spoon of honey early in the morning was a dreaded rite before leaving for school. On days where colds and coughs had decided to reside in her body, the honey was mixed with warm orange juice or worse yet warm milk. It almost prolonged the ordeal. Rather than suffer and be done with a spoonful, she was forced to taste the honey with every gulp until the glass was empty. Sometimes she held her nose to avoid tasting the contents… often to no avail. She ended up throwing up, unable to stomach what she had just been forced to swallow.

It was never politically correct to dislike honey, particularly as bees and their products have a special place in Islam. It’s a wonder that something sweet and with so many medicinal purposes is produced by hard working bees.  Having acknowledged this however, she was sure she was allergic to honey. Just as she was allergic to bees. Well, more accurately to bee stings. It was a shame, both for her intense allergic reaction to bee stings and her dislike and possible allergy to honey that the home she grew up in was also home to bee hives.  Six of them. This meant bees were always about and fresh honey on the comb readily available.

She would get stung frequently.  Every time, the area of her skin where she got stung would turn the color of tomatoes, swelling two to three times it’s original size. She would break out in hives, feeling the urge to scratch her skin raw. She felt as though she was on fire with no air to breathe.   She was rushed to the clinic to get an injection but her symptoms were so severe that each additional minute before the contents of the injection met her bloodstream felt like torture. She must’ve mirrored outwardly what she felt internally for after that, injections were kept at home. She craved those injections, if only to be able to breathe again. Freely.

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Addis Streets

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They stood in the middle of the street nonchalant/ unbothered that a car was coming their way at high speed. Perhaps it was defiance. Or indifference. Or masochism. I wasn’t quite sure which. My grandma’s words rang true: ‘back in the day, pedestrians used to be fearful of cars. Today, it’s the cars that fear pedestrians’. I swerved to the right of them. They stood still, unfazed, not even bothering to look my way.

It’s funny how the people on the streets stand timidly in disbelief at a zebra crossing when a car stops for them. Perhaps they’re not used to cars making way. And yet in the same breath cross streets and jump over barriers on highways where cars are coming and going at high speeds. The first I would’ve imagined is because they fear for their lives and are too used to cars having no mercy for pedestrians and oblivious or disregarding the fact that a zebra crossing is meant to give pedestrians the right of way. The second however makes me think the exact opposite. That people are reckless and don’t value their lives much. Is this a reflection of how bad things are in this city? That people are willing to lose it all on the streets? That perhaps the streets are where they assert control, making up for the other aspects of their lives where they feel powerless? Is it a defiance of all those wealthy enough to own a car in a country where cars have been inflated 2-300%?

I’m sorry

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Sorry for all the times I can’t protect you from the cruelty and ugly of this world
For all the times your heart breaks in two, or more pieces
For the times you have to deal with both broken people and systems
For all the injustice you’ll encounter with no means of redress
For all the times you’ll have to confront petty and down right dirty with grace

For all the times you will be put down
To the extent you begin to doubt your own worth
For all the times you’re under appreciated, under valued, under loved, under cared for
For all the times you’re not treated like the queen you are
The quiet beauty who’s soul and spirit radiates from within lighting up another when allowed to breathe
The anbessa ye anbessa lij who doesn’t yet acknowledge her intellectual prowess

I’m sorry
But especially sorry if all this makes you feel any less of yourself

A Litany for Survival

By Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak
we are afraid our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

Harar

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Living museum of a
World upside down
We’ll just get lost
Amidst more than
368 narrow streets
82 mosques

We’ll find ourselves
Between the five gates
Of the walled city,
On the street of reconciliation
Megera wa weger
And make up

There’s no black & white in this city
Colors, in all hues and textures
Decorate walls, homes, baskets & clothes
And proceed to pour out into markets and streets

Lucid 112 year old
Exemplifies power of
Persuasion and persistence
Breaking spontaneously into prayer and song

Understanding (her)story
Female Emirs
Tadin binti Maya
Dil Wambara
Running an autonomous empire
Before it was fashionable to do so

Posing in hareri attire
Feeding friends of the city;
hyenas & falcons
Hilbet merekh

Layla

By Semiha Abdulmelik

That time of day
When everything moves
Still
When street noises sound
Mute
When light shines
Diffuse.
Dusk
Filters gently into my soul
Soothes.
Like you
Layla

Happy Birthday Laylu. I couldn’t put it better than your aunt, Sems.

Love you to the moon and back habibti.

Floodlights

I used to think it was the darkness
That put her in a bad place
I’ve only now come to realize
It’s the lights that flood her existence
That seem to haunt her

As soon as they come on
She looks for the spots the lights don’t reach
So she can crawl there, covered by the warmth and cover of darkness

While some crave movement and sound,
She is satiated by the emptiness and fullness of silences

Alone, she can negotiate between the different women that make her

Undisturbed,
She filters the orchestra of thoughts
Into varying octaves

Allowing each to sing her tune

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The State of Africa

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The State of Africa:
The Ghost of Sani Abacha
Bathing under half of a yellow sun
Watches
As things fall apart
In the secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives

It’s Our Turn to Eat

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Things fall apart
As the ghost of Sani Abacha,
Capitalizing on Catastrophe,
Narrates the secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives

But there is
No God but God
For the bottom billion,
The wretched of the earth
Who under half of a yellow sun
Quietly chant,
‘Its our turn to eat’

Krik? Krak! (Excerpts)

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By Edwidge Danticat

Children of the Sea

p10 I cannot help feeling like she will have this child as soon as she is hungry enough.

p11 ‘Yes, I am finally an African. I am even darker than your father.’

p13 ‘He is trying to protect us.’
‘He cannot protect us, only God can protect us.’

‘All anyone can hope for is just a tiny bit of love’ manman says, like a drop in a cup if you can get it, or a waterfall, or a flood if you can get that too.’

p14 Someone says ‘krik’. You answer ‘krak’. And they say, ‘I have many stories I could tell you’ and they go on and tell these stories to you, but mostly to themselves.

p15 ‘At times I wonder if there is really land on the other side of the Sea. Maybe the Sea is endless. Like my love for you.’

The soldiers were looking for her son. Madan Roger was screaming, you killed him already. We buried his head. You can’t kill him twice.

p17 ‘oh yes, you can let them kill somebody because you are afraid. They are the law. It is their right. We are just being good citizens, following the law of the land. It has happened before all over this country and tonight it will happen again and there is nothing we can do.’

p18 People are just too hopeful and sometimes hope is the biggest weapon of all to use against us. People will believe anything….

p21 I know your father might never approve of me. I was going to try to win him over. He would have to cut out my heart to keep me from loving you.

Think of it. They are fighting about being superior when we all might drown like straw.

Nineteen thirty seven

p48 Life is never lost, another one always comes up to replace the last.

A Wall of Fire Rising

p68 ‘If God wanted people to fly, he would have given us wings in our backs…’
‘You’re right…but look what He gave us instead. He gave us reasons to want to fly. He gave us the air, the birds, our sun.’

p74 People don’t eat riches, they eat what it can buy.

Night Women

p85 As much as I know that there are women who sit up through the night and undo patches of cloth that they’ve spent the whole day weaving. These women, they destroy their toil so that they will always have more to do. And as long as there’s work, they will not have to lie next to the lifeless soul of a man whose scent lingers in another women’s bed.

Between the Pool & Gardenias

p92 She looked the way I imagined all my little girls would look. The ones my body could never hold. The ones that got suffocated inside me and made my husband wonder if I was killing them on purpose.

…I saw on Madame’s TV that a lot of poor city women throw out their babies because they can’t afford to feed them. Back in Ville Rose you can’t even throw out the bloody clumps that shoot out of your body after your child’s born. It is a crime, they say, and your whole family would consider you wicked if you did it. You have to save every piece of flesh and give it a name and bury it near the roots of a tree so that the world won’t fall apart around you.

p94 For no matter how much distance death tried to put between us, my mother would visit me. Sometimes in short sighs and whispers of somebody else’s voice. Sometimes in somebody else’s face. Other times in brief moments in my dreams.

p96 I’m old like a piece of dirty paper people used to wipe their behinds, and he’s got ten different babies with ten different women. I just had to run.

The Missing Piece

p116 ‘They say a girl becomes a woman when she loses her mother…You, child, were born a woman.’

p119 ‘My grandmother will be mad at me if I get killed’

New York Day Women

p146 In Haiti when you get hit by a car, the owner of the car gets out and kixks you for getting blood on his bumper.

p149 My mother keeps on walking as though she owns the sidewalk under her feet.

p154 Shame is heavier than 100 bags of salt

Caroline’s Wedding

p163 ‘Don’t say you’ll never dine with the devil if you have a daughter’ she said. ‘You never know what she’ll bring.’

p166 In NY, women give their eight hours to the white man…no one has time to be cradling no other man.

p181 ‘She is my child. You don’t cut off your own finger because it smells bad.’

p185 ‘I can’t accuse you of anything… You never call someone a thief until you catch them stealing.’

p186 ‘Caroline is just like you. She sleeps a hair thread away from waking, and she rises with the roosters.’

p190 If cleanliness is next to godliness, then whenever we had company my mother became a goddess.

p194 ‘Love cannot make horses fly…the heart is like a stone.. We never know what’s in the middle… All hearts are stone until we melt, and then they turn back to stone again.’

p213 ‘The past, it fades a person.’

p215 We were Americans and we had no taste buds. A double tragedy.

Women Like Us (Epilogue)

p219 Are there women who both cook and write? Kitchen poets, they call them. They slip phrases into their stew and wrap meaning around their pork before frying it. They make narrative dumplings and stuff their daughter’s mouths so they say nothing more.

p220 When you write, it’s like braiding your hair, taking a handful of coarse unruly strands and attempting to bring them to unity. Your fingers have still not perfected the task. Some of the braids are long, others are short. Some are thick, others are thin. Some are heavy, others are light. Like the diverse women in your family. Those whose fables and metaphors, whose similies, and soliloquies, whose diction and je ne sais quoi daily slip into your survival soup, by way of their fingers.

p222 Death is a path we take to meet on the other side….we are never any farther than the sweat on your brows or the dust on your toes.

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