Hiwot Adilow is an Ethiopian-American poet and singer from Philadelphia. She is a member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Nepantla, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, and elsewhere and has been anthologized in The BreakBeats Poets Vol 2.0: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books, 2018). Hiwot is author of the chapbook In The House of My Father (Two Sylvias Press, 2018).
The Night My Father Was Robbed
I ran downstairs with a hammer & turned on every light.
I said, I hate this country & spat on the ground where I was born.
It isn’t this country the Black cop said, writing down the facts
of theft. Back then, I didn’t know History’s names. I couldn’t
drop knowledge bombs. I didn’t know Osage burned
around the corner where I was bred & breastfed.
Everybody with the last name Africa was bombed
by the first Black mayor. I didn’t know Goode
or Rizzo or my own father’s youth, soaked in red & wringing.
The Amharic word for terror rhymes the English “shiver.”
Fear evokes movement, even if it’s just a solitary tremble,
quiet shifts back & forth. I look behind me
& name Ethiopia the promised land.
I relay its myths, nod along to dead prophecies.
I read half a halfverse about Rastas & thought,
if someone calls a country heaven it must be so.
Who first called the country I was born in paradise?
Who first referred to America as a dreamscape?
Who first felt lucky to be here, galloping over vast blood?
I trot across the bones of people stolen & people stolen from.
Every heaven kills its citizens when they don’t sing.
Alarms cross at the forearms & scream.
My mouth tears meat from bone,
gleams wet over flesh & kisses, greedy.
My lips are quiet. They don’t cry out.
My father asks what I have there,
in his country. His question is
an answer in itself. A wound heals off-hinge.
I pour all my money into the ocean to sit.
Gallons of red trundle under earth & I don’t move.
one night’s pleasure is a lifetime’s pain
I put my life at risk any time I breathe & a man is near & I tell him no
or I lean on trust & he mentions Love & I ignore the gunbutt glowing at the hilt
I decide I want you too before your brother says she needs
another drink I had the myth divined to me what it means to be loose–
you’ve finished drilling into my hips my head my phone’s dead & you call
this dangerous it makes me swoon the after ficklefuck hush of a lazy afternoon
I won’t feel like nothing if you lend a truth–is your love theatre or threat?
it’s hard to deny my body its little deaths if we’re making promises
let’s keep promises babe I want to wake up & fit in the world
& not have it gnaw–that isn’t a futile charge the little crook of earth
brown skin that makes you is a world that can’t deliver a place
I can’t escape I trace you with my tongue & hunt for something to make me sing.
according to their names
father had three children in old age awaiting death he got one second he soil the third he gold and died the elders got together to discuss his written surprised because he told us not to talk man a crocodile licking drops very green very thin unharnessed with a free mouth wondered went on to a land which was barren a green fat land for us soothsayer we quarrel we promised this ploughing eat the meat at the beginning I ate all the bones you never know when God comes never know when we die nobody knows how I took first if He takes my soul run there and toil make our life’s will God’s will father got no house my father and I have the most deprived peace the past–a world