I’m nostalgic for a city
I know in my thoughts
As though my absence for over a decade
Has meant nothing
As though the characters that populate my memories
Are as I left them
Although many are long gone

The city of now is no longer as was
The present has left little to imagine of its past
Whole neighborhoods created and destroyed
Homes, his/her stories crumble with bulldozers
Giving rise to high rises

Our meetings, though frequent, are fleeting
I am yet to acquaint myself with what you’ve become
To relearn who you were
And who I was with you

I fear feeling unhome at home
Of feeling more comfort in places that are not

Is it possible to be outside one’s own world?
Or perhaps it was never mine to claim?
Perhaps notions of home and world wax and wane and take on meanings of their own?

New flower, I wonder if I will grow old with you…or if you will age with me

My Name Is Insulted That You Won’t Speak It

By Hiwot Adilow

I 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 afro
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?
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 t
he inhale that ushers in
my name is a poem my father wrote 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.

I think of the HORN…

I think of the Horn…

I think of the Horn,
And I think of
Colorful histories
Inter-woven identities
Inseparable humanities
Superfluous dreams
Untold stories

I think of the Nile as it ebbs and flows
Ras Dashen as it towers over the Denakil
Assab & the shores of Mogadishu

I think of civilization
Prior to civilization
Of the bravery of warriors
Of uncrushable pride

But I also think of hunger
Hunger that has ravaged too many of our people
For far too long
Of rulers who both refuse to step down
And are unwilling to step up and be leaders

And I think of profound faith
Indomitable spirits
In the midst of unspeakable hardships

I think of unreached potential
Renewed opportunities
Of innovators & renovators
Of record makers & breakers
Of a land of poets & wordsmiths

I think of the HORN
And I think of prisms
Each angle produces a different light
Unable to be defined or confined
But always alive

The Horn is, was & will always be.

©Nebila Abdulmelik, December 5, 2011

Inspired by HORNLIGHT-for more perspectives of the Horn, or to submit your own, please go to or

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