Thursday, January 11, 2007


She clutched her chest
and caught herself
on the kitchen sink
as she realized that
is the sunless side
of necessary action.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

::And They Spoke::

Is it stealing
if I take
the pain of others

and make it my healing?

Friday, December 01, 2006

::Seeing Red::

Velvet Christmas ribbons are not the only things red this time of year. Today is the day of a different red ribbon; today is World AIDS Day. Unfortunately, this day does not offer a reprieve to the 5,500 African lives which will be lost by the end of the day to AIDS.
Undaunted by Sisyphean challenges, U2's Bono looked for inovative ways to reverse this trend, and, on January 1 of this year, he introduced his latest brainchild, (Product)RED, a private sector partner of the
Global Fund. In this venture, Bono, who has established himself as an ambassador of humanitarian causes—most notably the ONE campaign with its famous tagline: "Make poverty history"—has teamed up with Bobby Shriver, brother of California's first lady.
The limited liability company behind (Product)RED is aptly named The Persuaders. Together, Bono and Shriver have managed to do the impossible: convincing the big kahunas to give up some of their profits for a
worth-while cause. Gap is donating half of what they make off their (RED) tees. Apple promises to give $10 of the $150 price tag on the (RED) iPod nano. American Express will make an honorary philanthropist of any (RED) card holder by contributing the equivalent of 1% of the customer's total spending. Converse lets you personalize your hightops down to the color of the stiching, and passes on 15% of the MAKE MINE RED profits. And Giorgio Armani says "It's time to take action" with his Emporio Armani (RED) watches which match his (RED) collection.
In the six weeks since these companies launched their product lines in the US on October 13,
(RED) sales have raised enough money to:
• Provide more than 40,000 men or women with ARV treatment for a year
• Provide more than 2 million peer educators with HIV training
• Provide a year’s worth of school materials and daily hot meals for more than 86,000 children orphaned by AIDS
• Provide more than 1 million Rapid Tests which detect HIV and deliver instant test results.

In his
World AIDS Day message, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that global awareness has improved and, with it, financial contributions but went on to point out that stopping the spread of AIDS is a crucial step in attaining many of the Millennium Development Goals. Thus, greater commitment is needed, and "it requires every one of us help bring AIDS out of the shadows, and spread the message that silence is death. . . . [n]ot only this day, or this year, or next year—but every day, until the epidemic is conquered."

This is why I choose to post this entry with one minute to go before the official end of World AIDS Day. While you may not have the time to become a full-fledged AIDS activist, you can contribute in other ways. For the sake of Africa's future, get INSPI(RED).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

::Random Reflections::

In an effort to post more frequently, I have decided to add Random Reflections--a series of incomplete pieces.

::Reflections in Neutral::

On my drive to work in the morning, there’s a spot which, although briefly, instantly transports me to the top of Churchill Road with the City Hall behind me. As I roll down in neutral, I look ahead down the narrowing stretch of busy asphalt to the unmistakable roundness of Commercial Bank. There, to the left, in the block of faded lime-green sits the Ministry of Defense. Across the street, the National Theater with its colorful wall curiously defies brightness. As if insistent on missing half of everything around him, the Lion of Judah locks his elongated neck in an eternal Eyes Right. At the very bottom, Legehar, once an imposing representation of Ethiopia’s foot inside the door of modern transportation, but now nothing more than a relic of a long-since missed opportunity.

I inhale the Addis air—a familiar mixture of exhaust fumes, dust, and stale neTelah—which, to a foreigner, seems pungent, but to those of us who breathed it as children, it is home. As with the view from Arada, Ethiopia’s great promise lies at her feet—prostrate.

Can Ethiopia rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes?

::Random Reflections: Ethiopian Enuphtuals::

Know that feeling when you wake up from a dream just before what you want to happen happens? That's what it felt like when the the much-dreaded invitation to a second cousin's nephew's wife's aunt's wedding arrived in the mail. Wait, make that TWO invitations. Damn! Almost made it clear through the season, and then . . . .

You know what I mean; it's the same faces, same prolonged "Mushera" entrance, same InjeranaweT. I can't wait--squeal!--to go to yet another intimate ceremony with 974 other close relatives and friends whose only chance of picking out the happy couple in the crowd is to be sober enough to recognize the over-sized white dress. And I'm positively tickled pink to be encountering people who seem to know my whole family history, while I pinch my chin and frown, as if trying to recall the last occasion during which I had the fabulous pleasure of seeing them. And, of course, best of all: I'll gain immediate, mandatory enrollment in an Amharic-language immersion course.

It never fails: we meet one of my husband's very distant "relatives," commonly referred to as cousin, aunt, or uncle, depending on age. Their last encounter was when she saw a picture of him at 8 months. No matter. They embrace, break off to kiss on the cheek four or twelve times while holding each other's arms, embrace again, then some more kisses punctuated by the repeated questions:

Indeme-*muah*-neh? Dehena-*muah*-neh?

Dehenah. *muah* Anchi dehenah-*muah*-nish?

After about five minutes of that, it's my turn. I can usually fake it through the initial greeting stage just fine. But when the questions branch off into actual conversation, the darting eyes and nervous half-smile are a dead give-away. My cover's blown. Then come the raised eyebrows, chin cradled in hand, the incredulity in her voice.

Indeh! You don't speak Amharic?!

That's right, I'm an Ethiopian who doesn't speak Amharic. And for inexplicable reasons, some take it upon themselves to teach me "just one word a day" because "it's very easy." Don't get me wrong, I wish I knew how to speak Amharic, but if I have to hear "You have to learn" one more time, I think I'm going to boil my brain.

I guess I shouldn't complain, though, because unlike the younger generation of Ethiopian-Americans. . . AHH! What's THAT?! . . . who think they're . . . b-b-black . . . Aieee . . . I'm still considered "save-able." But that's another discussion for another day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

::Night Traveler's Interlude::

"As you enter this life
I pray you depart
With a wrinkled face
And a brand new heart"

~U2, "Love and Peace or Else"

I slide into the soft velour. It's
a balmy night, so I leave
the AC off and roll the windows
down. Between gears, I tug

at the elastic band, and with a
shake and a ruffle my hair is
loose. I grit my teeth to the
seductive beat while the needle

stretches its long arm. The
pul-sa-ting speaker felt pounds
against its metallic torso,
accompanying the shadows

dancing across the dashboard, as I
hook a curl of hair from the
corner of my mouth where it has
stuck to the wetness, while words

roll off my tongue and green lights
snap taut cords. My fingers tighten
around the wheel, and I
miss my turn. I feel like

redlining on an empty tank, taking
any road wherever it leads,
leaving the windows open
in a downpour, breathing

weightlessly. But my car takes the second
turn into my neighborhood where windows
have closed their eyes for the night,

and the music crouches in submission
to the smattering of softly lighted
bedrooms. Certain the clicking
of my heels against the sidewalk

will wake a light sleeper, I walk
on my toes, while attempting to
appear that I’m not. The warm air
caresses my bare arms, and

crickets serenade me with their
nocturnal opus as I unlock the
door and pause before I leave
the evening behind me and enter

my 72-degree domain, where I
fall asleep on the couch
with the TV on and
my teeth un-flossed.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

::Life Ambrosial::

lifes loveliest
with dirt under her nails
and a scab on her knee

shes tastiest
when seasoned with time
and most fragrant
when fervid

go ahead
craddle her face in your hands
and kiss her deeply in the rain
drink the drops off her naked shoulders
let your hand slide down the small
of her sweaty back

shes yours

Saturday, May 27, 2006

::Blog Dammit::

For those unfamiliar with the political situation in Ethiopia, following is a grossly incomplete and admittedly biased commentary on the last year's political highlights. For the rest of you with a more in-depth knowledge than mine, indulge me.

On May 15, 2005, the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia held its third national elections after the end of a 17-year-long military dictatorship. In the months leading up to the election, the opposition had gained tremendous momentum. A week before the election, a rally drew unprecedented numbers of supporters. Estimates set the crowd at anywhere between 200,000 and two million—give or take 1.8 million. To many hopefuls, this latest election represented the yet unrealized promises of a truly free and democratic election process. That chimera was definitively shattered three weeks later on June 8, when news wires worldwide crackled furiously with reports of federal police firing live ammunition on unarmed civilians protesting what they believed was a rigged election.

Within a few days of the election, the opposition (indiscriminately referred to as one entity but comprising several parties) declared victory, and the preliminary numbers supported their assertion. Shortly thereafter, the incumbent (EPRDF) followed suit, making people scratch their head in wonder and awe at the bizarre and audacious denial of reality.

This marked the beginning of a political tug-of-war that was to claim several scores of innocent lives in two incidents of violent clashes between federal police and civilian protestors—one in June and another in November—and, more recently, a series of bombs exploding in typically crowded areas of the city.

Currently, over 100 individuals, including several opposition leaders, are being tried on serious charges, such as treason. But don't think this is such a novel legal charge. Last year, several African nations had their politics marred by what some say is an effective means of
silencing political opponents.

Earlier this month during a
press conference to which the private press was invited for the second time in his 14 years as Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi had this to say about the election: "The issue of legitimacy is not even to be questioned.... [T]he Etiopian public has accepted the [election] result and moved on.... [T]he Ethiopian public has accepted it." Much like the American public accepted the results of the 2000 election as determined by a 5-4 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court, with five of the nine justices being Republican nominees?

In his article "
The Permanent Election," Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley, explains unapologetically that

"One of the things that distinguishes advanced democracies

from banana republics is that winners and losers accept the
results of elections. Losing candidates and parties don't initiate
coups. Winners don't kill off the losers and their supporters. The
winning party has an pportunity to govern. Both sides go back to
their respective corners — winners take office, losers take other
jobs — and wait until the next election to do battle again."

Although you would think Reich wrote this with Ethiopia in mind, he is making a universally true and basic point that politics is a contact sport, and you must be able to take punches as well as you throw them. This is the simple, undiluted tenet of Democracy and exactly what failed to happen in the Ethiopian political arena.

In response to what they perceived as inherently unjust, Ethiopians around the world—many of whom were born middle-finger first—joined their vocal, socially aware compatriots and took the turn onto the Cyber Highway, blog-bound. As of May 19, one year and a few days after the third national election, blogs generally critical of the EPRDF have been
inaccessible from Ethiopia. To the members of the indefinitely suspended private press (excepting a few), this is yet another round of tranquilizer darts being fired off. First, if you are going to hunt, use the real thing. Next, remember what the hunter knows instinctually: Take 'em out in one shot or don't take the shot. What the censors have on their hands now is a waking lion.

The following poem is dedicated to all those who have been silenced, either temporarily or forever.

With a raised admonishing finger,
you speak in bullets and blasts.
Your fire and ferocity linger
in a space that will not pass.

When I rise and retort in stinging truths,
you call me "uncouth,"
"misguided youth".

You say you want to mother me,
but all you do is smother me.

What's that you say, you don't like my blog?
Sorry, but my conscience won't let me be your lap-dog.
Do I really need to invoke the D-word,
because what's happening now is just too absurd.

My armor may be imperceptible,
but your little tantrumed spectacle
cannot make me

for I drink from the bottomless cup
from which the pulpy juice of freedom flows.

"You reap what you sow"—
so, go ahead and silence my voice,
take my life if you must,
for then I will grow a thousand-fold.