$484.55

Bismillah.

This place, so full of greed, no compassion to be seen. Nothing makes sense to me now, not that it ever did to begin with. I always felt off here. I always had that feeling of something being missing. Something not agreeing with my conscience, with my stomach. Allah is the Supreme Ruler over all things in His glorious creation. In this place, people seem to forget that life culminates in death. That death is just around the corner. That the time they perceive to be everlasting is only ever drawing closer to an end. Ya Allah.

There is so much greed here, so much heartlessness. Everyone is an individual, and inherently worthy of self-adoration. You collect your government provided education, you apply for any job of your choosing. You come and go as you please, and you get paid handsomely to do it. You complain about taxes but overlook the bounty surrounding you, the clean streets and perfectly manicured public parks. The trees and the grass, the water and the air. All free of charge, they come standard with the package. You live here, and you have no idea how lucky you are to be able to say that. Yet, all you can think of is how much you don’t have, how much you wish you had what your neighbor had. How hard you try to deny him any advancement, by any means you can muster. You already have a full plate, but it would taste better if you got to see him starve. You want to be able to count every rib in his chest with the tip of your finger, poking at the sore spots for added emphasis. You want to laugh wickedly as you see the last bit of hope leave his eyes, making eye contact with him so that he knows just how far beneath you he is. This is not a competition, nor is it a fight for survival.

This is America, survival is a forgone conclusion, it’s just a matter of determining what levels of excess you can reach. This is not Africa, where the cost of a life is less than that of a cup of coffee. This is the heartland, the bible belt, wheat stalks as tall as the eye can see. This is not the favela, the slum village; you won’t worry about dying of preventable causes here. You need not fear becoming the next victim of ethnic violence if the election results don’t turn out as expected. You won’t go hungry a day of your life here, even if you have nowhere to sleep.

This is the place where the rich can’t afford to sleep at night and where poverty stricken dreams fall by the wayside. This is where nightmares are glorified and put on pedestals for all to see, smiles that don’t quite reach the eyes. This is the place where you are conditioned from pre-school onward, where you are told to reach for the sky, so long as the clouds in your sky are made of debt beyond your ability to pay and decadence beyond your ability to consume it. You are told to sell your faith for less than the price of a cup of coffee a day here. Morals? Don’t even think about it. To remain true to your moral grounding in this part of the world is akin to holding a burning coal between two open wounds on each of your palms, the flesh sizzling like freshly charred steak at a campfire cookout.

This is the place where you get ahead in life, but in doing so you have no choice but to forget the meaning of life itself. You’re too busy running like a chicken with its head cut off, gasping for air, trying to keep the facade from falling in on itself. Trying desperately to keep up with the Jones’ and depicting a flawless image of success the whole time. This is the land of never ending compromises that chip away at the foundation of your being like stagnant flood waters to a creole cottage in the 3rd Ward, post-Katrina. It’s only a matter of time before the levees break, before FEMA is called in to help distinguish the looters from the searchers, the criminals from the victims of misfortune.

This is the land where your identity is only useful if it’s fashioned into a flag and wrapped tightly around a javelin, your arm cocked back like those Greek Olympians of fabled antiquity. This is the place where you are asked your origin story so many times that you forget where you came from, where the truth stopped and the alterations started distorting your memory. This is the place where your humanity is predicated on how elaborate of a heart-wrenching story you can recite on command. This is the place where we call home, for better or worse, because our original world became too violent to withstand.

Begging for handouts dissolves your pride more than you’d imagine; begging to be spared from a most certain death doesn’t give you time to think about your feelings. One is worse than the other, but you’d be hard pressed to choose between rotting apples and maggot infested oranges without stopping to look around for a hidden camera. I assure you, this is not a prank and you’ll just have to find a way to keep putting one step in front of the other. This world is a crazy place, and so little of it makes sense.

Everyone is just lost, trying to swim against the current, trying to find a way back home. Trying to spawn one time in their lives, right before the sand expires in their hour glass. Make the most of it, while you can. Live, love, and if you can, laugh. If that’s too much to ask, at least force yourself to smile. A tear-streaked smile is better than that repressed rage.

Even active volcanoes find a way to support life a few decades after destroying everything in their paths. Dandelions and daffodils sprouting from the ashes on the edge of their craters, lakes forming inside the depressions left by their evacuated calderas. Hope blooming where moments before there was only despair.

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Consumed by Capitalism

“Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM, get the money.”

It’s all that’s ever made sense to you, from birth to bereavement. Success is measured in this materialistic world by how much capital you can accrue before you die, and that’s always struck a chord with you. Maybe because money makes people feel invincible, to distract themselves from their impending mortality, to be showered with praise by a sea of well-wishers. Never mind that they intend only on separating you, the fool, from your money; they can’t outsmart you if you made it this far. This life is finite, the resources within it ever pressingly more so. To run after either one of them is as futile as resisting assimilation by the Borg collective; it’s a race against time that you can never hope to win, but that won’t stop you from trying. Western society is set up in such a way that heartlessness is rewarded with prosperity and greed is reinforced at every turn. You need to be more shallow, it tells you; you need to buy more things to fill up that increasingly gaping chasm within you, that empty corner in your chest that you once called a heart.

You are told to sacrifice your sleep at night, your spare time with loved ones, all in the pursuit of ever-more gaudy glory. A new Chanel bag, that latest model luxury sport utility vehicle. Never mind the fact that the only difference between this one and the last one is a slight change in minutia and a higher price tag. It’s not about beauty, perceived or otherwise: it’s about status. It’s about visible symbolism more than anything else, to be seen as a symbolic idealization of  every false conviction that capitalism breeds into the minds of impressionable adolescents.

It worms its way into your psyche and takes root. It begins to fester like a raisin in the sun. It makes you look at yourself in the mirror with contempt, disgusted by your inability to secure that last sale, to close that contract negotiation and get that promotion. No prestigious bonus this year, no ballroom-tuxedo-wearing gala dinner celebrating your worthless achievements. Never mind the fact that God Almighty blessed you with everything you have, including the very air that you breathe, or that He could take it all away from you in the blink of an eye. You can’t afford to stop to think about something like that, you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and you can’t let go of them now.

Your sense of self is defined entirely by what you see in front of you: an 8 figure bank account balance, at least 4 homes in 3 different countries, worldwide recognition in your chosen field. If any one of these things should happen to slip, to suffer, your entire universe is at risk of disintegrating around you like a paper-mache project forgotten in the rain by careless school children. Your will to live would surely be called to question, if that stock takes one more tumble, that 47th story window might seem a little more inviting than it did last year, asking you to go the way of those stock prices. That damn window is always calling, beckoning, begging. Taunting you, daring you to throw it all away.

This glass house you’ve built for yourself starts to look more and more like a carnival fun house, by the minute, by the hour.. The mirrors distort reality, one stacked atop the other, showing you ever more gruesome variations of what you once called a face. You don’t recognize yourself anymore, but then again, you’re not really sure if you ever did to begin with. This lust for worldly possessions fuels you, forces you to stifle your emotions for the sake of maintaining business relationships. Making business decisions with your mind, your sense of morality withering away by the day. Living hand to mouth, mouth to foot.

You can’t remember the last time you went to sleep without the aid of prescription narcotics, or awoke without the aid of caffeinated beverages. You have the best doctors that money can buy on retainer, but your schedule won’t allow you to see them. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just making sacrifices to get your family ahead. What were their names anyway? Didn’t you miss your daughters birthday again this year? It’s alright, she’ll understand one day, when she’s old and gray and well pampered, all thanks to your hard work. Who needs the love of a father, anyway. A father’s job is to provide for his family’s physical needs. You put a roof over their heads and a trust fund in their names, should death come calling sooner than expected.

You never expect death, it’s just a matter of time before you buy your way into immortality. Your health can’t possible fail you, not after so much success. You think highly of yourself, yes, highly you do. Those test results can’t be right, you’re still in your 40’s. The cardiologist says your heart can’t take any more stress, but damn him and his second-rate public university education. You’ll just buy a new one, you can afford it now. You wonder if you’re forgetting something, if there wasn’t somewhere you were meant to be. You can’t stop to think about that now, not now. You’re so close to finally reaching your goals, to finally becoming successful. You have to get that capital. There’s no point in being alive if you don’t. Were you ever alive to begin with? No matter, who cares.

Your family files into the room now, one after the other, as you’re staring at the ceiling. It’s a struggle to keep your eyelids open. How did you get here? Weren’t you just on the boardroom floor, in a heated argument with your CFO about profit margins? What’s that paper the doctor is asking them to sign? Your wife is staring wistfully at you with what looks to be remorse, a heavy dose of pity thrown in for good measure. Your children are so tall now, when did that happen? When did they graduate high school? There doesn’t seem to be a single tear in the room. No one is crying. Why isn’t anyone coming to your rescue? You thought they loved you, you’ve done so much for them. You’ve given them the world on a silver platter, how could they be so ungrateful?

They never loved you anyway, that has to be it. You don’t need them, you don’t need anyone. As soon as you get out of this bed, you’ll just start over again. You tried your best to help them, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t appreciate your efforts to do so. The room is closing in on you now, the coldness keeps steadily creeping in. You see the doctor walking away from the corner of your eye, the lights on the machines going dead all around you. The family you once knew to be yours has long since vacated the premises. It’s just you now, as it was from the beginning.

A tiny shudder of fear works its way up your spine. All sensation slowly escapes your limbs, starting at the very tips of your fingers and toes. Now you feel something, something churning deep within. A new feeling, but at the same time familiar; one that you kept hidden from your most conscious self. Regret. Shame. Inadequacy. Insecurity. Uncertainty. Poverty. Crushing poverty of the soul. There’s nothing left for you to cover it up with now. No family, no friends, no fortune. It’s all slipping away now, and you only wish that you had seen it sooner. That this life was a test, and oh how you failed it miserably, valiantly. All for the love of money, and nothing else. Cold, calculating, reptilian brain dictating your every move. You can’t even be called human at this point.

You are Borg.                                                  Existence, as you know it, is over.

 

Coming (back) to America

So I had been gone from this so-called promised land, this American wonderland, for almost 4 years to the date. As my old Dugsi teacher recently told me: I just went on an extended vacation of sorts. When I was last in America, the first black president was in his second term in office. 7-11 sold frozen, pre-cooked pizzas for $5 on EBT, then they’d heat it up for you in their high powered microwave ovens. The government was, in effect, subsidizing a hot-and-ready alternative to Lil’ Caesars famous offering of the same ilk for hood niggas in the struggle. I remember standing in long lines for meager payouts: DSHS; too sick to care, too tired to do anything but shuffle one foot in front of the other; medicated.

In 2013, I was a wildly different person and America was a wildly different place. When I left that Seattle-Tacoma airport, when the Emirates airline began its rapid ascent to cruising altitude and I began my descent into self-reflection, into trepidation, into barely controlled madness of the introverted kind. Maybach Music Volume II blasted in my iPhone headphones, from my iPhone 3GS that I had bought for $20 off of a tweaker late one night in those perpetually rainy city streets. That was the first iPhone I ever owned, and it was no small accomplishment to me: purchasing an outdated iPhone off the street with dirty money. With guilty money, more soaked in filth than the conscience that kept me up ’till sunrise every night: festering in its own self-pity, in remorse at a life that could have been and never was, eating away at me. To fall so far from grace, to sink so low after such lofty expectations were placed on me: cognitive dissonance, at best.

I wandered through those grimy downtown alleyways with not a hint of fear in my heart, shoulder to shoulder with the rats and wine-bums and heroin-junkies and crack-heads and the resolute dabblers of all vices at once. I sought the most dangerous of situations because life was too sterile and pre-determined to an acute degree of safety in America. I shrugged my shoulders, careful not to dislodge that chip on the left as I skated away into the foreground, skin drenched in fluorescent streetlights and bathed in acrid rain.

I left trails of dissatisfied hearts in my wake, I left nothing to chance. I fulfilled not a single obligation, or commitment; I vacillated as a pendulum with a broken metronome attached. I was broken inside, shattered outside. My knees, my elbows: raw, freshly scabbed. My palms, my wrists: shredded like a 3-cheese Mexican blend. I had no friends, though I was surrounded by hordes of indifferent passers-by at any given time. I slept in parking garages from time to time, when the night called for it, having only my skateboard as a pillow and my box of swisher sweets clutched tightly to my chest; praying to wake up in a different reality. Wiping the discontent off my eyes before the homies saw the real me; plastering that goofy-stance of a smile onto my face, my eyes telling another story entirely.

I bled from the tear ducts, my saline solution long since having been spent. I lived my life on the edge of the gutter, on the precipice of utter humiliation. Still, somehow, I had the audacity to walk around with arrogance. What a coping mechanism that was: feigned indifference. I was broken then and I’m still struggling to collect the pieces to this day. It’s only by the grace of Allah that I never crossed that line into oblivion, that I was able to somehow find my way back to daylight. It’s only by the grace found only by the Indian Ocean in Mogadishu that this internal longing for recompense found some small measure of satisfaction.

So that iPhone 3GS got stolen from me by some Canadian Dhaqan Celis (Return to Culture) kid in Galkacayo, city of my ancestors. I ended up getting Malaria that same night, what an introduction to the concept of Qadr (Allah’s Divine Decree). Things happen as they were meant to, and it’s only a matter of how fast you come to terms with it that you can really begin to understand this thing called life. I lay on that 3-inch thick twin-sized Styrofoam bed-mat in my mother’s house (I hesitate to call it a mattress, it was literally some sponge material on the floor) for no less than 6 days. She saved for 10 years, one penny at a time, to have that house built for our future in Somalia; forever indebted to her as I am, I was grateful that no one was coming to collect rent, ever. I shivered and I shook. I sweated and I froze. I released my bowels and my stomach; I could barely lift my head off that pillow (the used one, the hand me down one that my younger brother had already worn a nice groove into over the last year or more before I got there).

The only thing that kept repeating throughout my mind, lost in a hazy fever-dream that had no beginning or end, was the picture of that Canadian kid walking off into the distance of the alleyway as he pretended to be making a phone call. “Yes, Uncle. I’m good. Did you get the money? I’m really broke and could use a 50 or two. No, I can’t hear you, hold on.” He turned to me and gave me the “give me a second” finger, walking into the alleyway and pointing as if there was a magical spot halfway down the block that had perfect cell reception. How could you let yourself get played like that, Said? You came to Africa with no money, with a suitcase full of clothes that your dad bought for you at a second-hand store. You couldn’t even pay for your own clothes before you were kicked out of America, poverty clause. What kind of an excuse for a grown man are you? You’re supposed to be so smart, how could you not even pay your own bills?

What kind of an excuse are you?

It didn’t matter. All I could do was wonder if I would survive this incident, my first time getting ACTUALLY sick in Somalia. If I did live to tell the tale, would I continue to be the coward I was known to be in Seattle or would I track this dude down and get my phone back by any means? Never mind that I couldn’t fight, and that word on the street was that homeboy had bodies on his record, which is how he ended up exiled to Somalia; it was a matter of principle. You can’t let people see that your weak in Somalia; even if everyone knows how weak you are, you hide it until they come to carry you to your grave; die brave, even if it means an early grave, right?

Anyways.

I lived to tell this tale, so clearly I never showed my bravery. At least, not to him. He ate that phone, and he ate well for several days. The money from the sale of my phone on the street was probably spent before I even recovered from my bought with malaria. I think there’s a funny kind of irony in that whole scenario: I bought a phone on the street, most likely hotter than the devil’s sundress collection, and that phone made it all the way down to Somalia with me ( a place that’s even hotter than the devil’s drawers, underneath that very same sundress collection on a Spike Lee day in Brooklyn).

That phone ended up getting stolen from me, which is funny because the guy I bought it from most likely stole it from someone else; drug addicts have habits and habits are not very discerning when it comes to your previous sense of morality before they took hold of your life.

Anyways.

The phone that I bought on the street, was taken from me, and sold on another street. A street that wasn’t even a street, more potholes than dirt. No pavement to be seen, the ground so uneven that you struggled not to fall face first on any given walk to town.

Anyway, no matter.

I never got the phone back, nor did I get any compensation, or just desserts, or revenge, or anything of that sort. I learned that you can’t trust people just because they share similar life experiences with you in a foreign land that you once called home. I learned that Allah gives and Allah takes away, and you don’t have a say in the matter. I learned that you can huff and puff your chest all you want, but that Wiley Wolf was only a fable character and most likely never even made eye contact with those pigs: he was scared like you were scared. He is you, but you run away from him still.

Running man.

Game Speed

What would it take to make a living as a writer? Listen, man. This putting word to screen stuff is just much a mystery to me today as it was 10 years ago. I have no idea how I write, or how the words fall into place the way they do when I’m in the zone, as it were. It’s not a matter of willing myself into a state of inspiration these days so much as it is managing my moods and emotions to help facilitate the process of producing decent work. I don’t care how many times someone tells me that they’re a fan of my writing, or that they see areas for improvement; I’ll never be satisfied with what comes out of these fingertips.  That’s what drives me to keep digging, to keep picking at each sentence like a neurotic child with a perpetually unhealed scab.

I type maybe 95 words per minute on average, in a clinical setting with controlled variables and a stopwatch attached next to my on-screen prompt. When I played football back in high school, I distinctly remember Coach LeLe Te’o always bringing up the concept of track speed vs game speed. The ultimate measure of a football player’s worth, to most self proclaimed experts, can be summed up in the time it takes them to run a 40 yard dash in controlled settings. This is what they call track speed. Some of the fastest timed players should, according to this logic, end up being superstars out under those hallowed Friday Night Lights, the crisp autumn air causing steam to condensate on the inside of players’ reflective helmet visors. To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso, the much heralded college football analyst and play-by-play color commentator, “not so fast, my friend!”

Grantedspeed isn’t something you can teach to a prospective football player, but at the same time, it doesn’t make up for a lack of intangible skills that make the difference between a fast person who happens to be on a football field and an outstanding football player. So that’s when the concept of game speed comes into play. Simply put, it defines how fast a player reacts to specific, in-game situations and how their natural ability to remain cool in high-pressure situations translates into a knack for making big plays. Someone with game speed will look a lot faster on game footage than they will on a timed track. The difference is obvious, and to the uninitiated observer, almost inexplicable.

I never had speed, either in-game or on the track, but I was always blessed with the ability to observe and internalize my surroundings, almost to a fault. I liken my understanding of game speed to a do-or-die scenario: say when you’re late for a critical day at work and your car broke down and the bus you need to catch to be on time is about to leave the station, but you’re about 3 blocks away. You run like your life depended on it, because your livelihood just might if you don’t catch the bus in time.

I’ve always been slow, and to that I will be the first to admit, but I recall times where I’ve been so motivated to catch a bus that I could have broken Olympic records (at least in my mind). That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to picture someone demanding more of their body than you would think physically possible in normal circumstances. To my understanding, that comes down to a matter of mind over matter.

The human body is weak, temporal. The human spirit, the mind, is something that existed before the body and will continue to do so after this physical form has long since decayed beneath  6-9 feet of terra firm. The body wants nothing more than to convince the mind and spirit, that they are one: that as soon as the body ceases to be, so too shall the spirit. It wants to convince you that your lifespan is limited to its own lifespan, purely out of selfishness. Since when have you heard of a flower vessel dictating the terms of service to a flower that happens to be lying within it? That’s like a hermit crab being told of its own limitations by the current shell that it happens to inhabit. It’s asinine as hell, but hell’s gotta make a living too, right?

If you ask me, I’d say that the trick to game speed is merely a realization that, when motivated, the human consciousness is capable of pushing its body to accomplish tremendous feats on command. The fingertips that spit out this garbled jargon between these pre-measured indentations are nothing else if not an extension of that same human body. It shouldn’t be that difficult to picture a future for myself wherein I command these here appendages, all ten of them in a perfectly coordinated dance of dialect, to provide for not only myself but the family whom I wish to be held responsible for.

When you get past all the creeping self-doubts that every writer or artist goes through in relation to the quality of their work, writing is a source of peace for me. To write means to get a literal grasp of my thoughts, sift them through palms like Barbados hot white sands and ultimately release them into the 7 winds like the ashes of Neanderthalian campfires long since extinguished.

When all else fails and nothing feels right in my life, writing is the mental equivalent of a bottle of 7-Up in any black household: it’s a cure-all for any ailment, from broken pinky toe to existential crisis. Nothing salves my heart quite like two things in this world: listening to/reciting the Holy Quran and writing about anything and everything. Running comes in as a close third to these two natural suppressors of negative emotions, but running is not a luxury that one can always afford to partake in. So what does it all mean, where is it all leading to? I wish I could tell you, but I do know that imma keep trusting my instincts and live my life one ink blot at a time. Yeah, irregardless is a word if I want it to be, red squiggly lines be damned. You should write about that, my guy. Let it out in 4/4 time. Clock a 4.4 at the combine.

Dhulkayaga // Our Land

Our country, we have failed thee. Shattered to the core, we’ve trampled on your still beating heart more times than we’d care to admit, but surely you must have the tally etched onto every vein and ventricle in that tender organ. Somalia, we don’t deserve to utter your name when we describe ourselves to the foreigners who we now treat more like family than our own siblings.

Today is Mother’s Day, but Hooyo Somalia, we’ve become the worst offspring a mother could ever hope to have. Hope may not be the best word for it, since there is so little of it left in your torn and tattered heart; hope for us to make good on our claims of Somalinimo, of walaaltinimo, of midnimo. We promised to die defending your honor, sweet Mother, but when push came to shove, all we did was turn on each other. We promised to never leave your side, to bear every hardship with patience and resilience, for the sake of the greater good. We did no such thing, Hooyo Somalia, we just turned tail and ran.

We turned to the sea, to the desert; to sit listlessly under orange tarp covers flapping atop brittle and battered acacia trees struggling to hold the weight of make-shift lean-tos, the sides emblazoned with bright blue acronyms that resemble your favorite color more than we’d like to admit. We convinced each other that there was no home for hope here, that our mother was dying and we had to save ourselves before the darkness closed in on us. The darkness we spoke of came from no foreign influence, it came from no moonless nights, it merely came from the darkest recesses of our own souls.

We were the problem all along, Hooyo Somalia, through no fault of your own. We were the only children you had but we acted as if we didn’t owe you anything. We took shelter under that sky-blue UN sign, the one with white borders that so closely resembles your favorite colors, Hooyo. Have you ever heard of such a thing, Hooyo Macaan, of ungrateful offspring rushing off to take shelter in a new home, with a new mother of their choosing, simply because they destroyed the home that their birth mother provided for them? We gave ourselves up for adoption, Hooyo Somalia, and pretended that we didn’t know who exactly gave birth to us.

They say that the sand that covers you now is bright red, brighter than a thousand dying suns, because of how much of our own blood we’ve spilled on your sacred body. They say that we were never meant for freedom, that we are a perpetually failed state, a flawed people’s that weren’t born with the capacity to govern themselves. They tell us that so that we forget what we did to you, Dearest Mother Somalia, so that we forget the thousands of generations of proud history that shaped us. They want us to play the victim role, to believe that we could somehow be the victims of crimes that we perpetrated against you. I wish I could apologize for the rest of my countrymen, I wish that I could make them take back every bullet casing that they carelessly shed onto your barely breathing form, hunched over in pain as one warlord after the next attempted to step into the power vacuum caused by a people who had shed more of their humanity with each falling assault rifle shell casing.

I wish you could speak, Hooyo Somalia, I wish I could hear the pain in your voice. I wish the tears in your eyes could help the crops grow again, but I know that salted earth bears no fruit and that dead trees couldn’t provide shelter even if they tried. All I’ve known, since the second we left Mogadishu all those years ago, is exclusion. We’ve been excommunicated from our own homeland, we’ve been forced to grow tall in unforgiving terrains, to shovel snow from our mother’s driveway with one hand as we tried to keep the blunt lit with the other hand. To hide our shame of not knowing our own roots, to mask it, to cover that incessantly buzzing void with untold intoxicants and fabricated personas, hoping that the all those buzzing noises would cancel each other out. We were forced to recreate the violence that we were born into in our new Western lives; we recreate the violence that we were born fleeing from, while being incubated to maturation in our mother’s distended bellies as they huddled low in undersized shipping boats, watching the shores of Kismayo slowly disappear into the distance, hoping beyond hope that they didn’t become malnourished to the point of miscarrying us.

Did your mother ever tell you how you came to be, my young Somali? Did she tell you how many people had to die for you to have this chance that you take for granted every day in the west? Did she tell you that for every 1 family who made it to Australia, to Sweden, to Brazil, 3 more were left for dead on the side of the road in Beled Hawo, in Afgooye, in Goldogob. Did she tell you that some of her childhood friends didn’t even get the luxury of an Islamic burial? Did she tell you how your family tried to stay when the war broke out, when Somalia’s heart suffered a massive infarction that it has yet to recover from, that your father volunteered to drive a dump truck that deposited mountains of lifeless bodies into the mass graveyards, hoping that it would help stop the bloodshed in some way?

We have failed as a people, we have failed our oath to our Motherland, and we somehow have the audacity to wave blue and white flags in the comforts of countries unravished by the touch of heartlessness. Or, maybe they were, but that heartlessness was directed outside of their own borders so as to secure a prosperous future filled with turning blind eyes and offering aid shipments to the recipients of that same heartlessness. A people divided can never hope to call themselves a people at all. Similarly, a mother can never be happy so long as she harbors resentment for her offspring.

Somalia is dying from heartbreak, but her children won’t let her die. Somalia can’t die until every last one of us bleaches our skin to the brink of Anglo Saxonism, until we reprimand our own children for daring to speak that forbidden Somali tongue. So long as you choose to ride that fence between performative Somalinimo and actually doing something, anything, for the sake of your country, Somalia is unable to die.

You have to make a choice, oh favored reader. You can live in the West and pretend that Somalia is beyond your help, thereby renouncing all ties with your birth Mother. Alternatively, you can help me pick up these bits and pieces of Somalia and superglue them back together. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, you just have to commit to making amends to Hooyo Somalia.

Dhulkayaga wuu noo baahanyahay, adnah gaari cad iyo qabri qabow baad daba ordeesaa. Filin aan bislaan baa kuu saaran sxb…

808s and Heartbreak

I’ve learned how to overcome addiction, how to navigate the
intersections of the criminal justice and mental health systems as a
black man in America, I’ve learned to be self-reliant for my mental
health and the importance of having a strong support network. I’ve
moved to an entirely new state to get away from the demons that chased
me, only to find that no matter where I went, there I was. I struggled
to find acceptance within my various demographic communities and
realized that until I found acceptance within myself, I could never
gain it from external sources.

I volunteered extensively at the
Ballard food bank for several years on and off, I saw how people
became humbled when the capitalism they were so in favor of a few
months ago turned around to bite them in the rump. I was in awe of how
coming to a food bank forced people to swallow their egos in order to
feed their families. That the food they were taking for free was
donated by grocery stores who were ready to throw it out, because it
was so close to expiration.

It made me realize a lot about how
capitalism is an inherently heartless system, about how bottom lines
are always valued before the very lives of people. America is a cold,
heartless place; even more so if you don’t control the means of
production.

I read Bukowski, Vonnegut, Bradbury. I read Heinlein and
Silverstein. I began writing, poetry, profusely. I performed at open
mics and poetry slams for almost four years, and developed some
invaluable friendships that lasted well after I grew to hate
performance poetry.

I moved back home to Somalia and learned to speak
fluent Somali for the first time since my childhood. I learned to read
it and write it and translate documents from English to Somali with
ease. I understood what the cultural context of my Somali background
truly meant to me, how it unwittingly gave me the backbone of my
self-image.

Even though I was unware of any real sense of self within
me, it existed, but buried beneath countless layers of assimilation
and adaptation. I learned that I could grow to absolutely hate
writing, and not write a single word for years at a time. I also
learned that it was a part of me, and that I would always come back to
it. Like an old friend who you haven’t seen in years, and pick up
right where you left off as if they never left.

I learned that I was
of a lot greater value to my Country than I had imagined. I met and
saw people who barely finished high school overseas helping to
actively change the narrative in Somalia. I realized that being a
bilingual, creative and determined young diaspora returnee gave me a
lot of advantages that I would have never had if we hadn’t fled
Somalia during the civil war.

I realized that trauma, deep seated
childhood trauma, never really leaves you. I learned that some wounds
can be scarred over but completely tender underneath the epidermis. I
learned that old psychological wounds can be easily reopened once you
walk the same scorched earth that you did as a child. I learned that
pain can never be avoided, and that the longer you try to sweep it
under the rug, the more it will hurt when that dam eventually ends up
breaking.

I learned that love waits for no man, or woman, and that
those who get hurt end up trying to hurt the next partner they come
across. They think that lashing out at someone else will somehow help
them feel better about what the last person did to them. There is too
much backlash and side splash in this world.

There is little, if any,
true love to be seen.

I learned to protect my heart, by any means
necessary.

I learned that words, no matter how seemingly heartfelt,
are little more than lip service. I learned that trust shouldn’t be so
easily given to people for the content of their words, because even a
snake charmer can lead a python to its demise with the sweet lilt of
his flute.

I learned that I have to move on, somehow, and that my
future is based on doing everything within my power to help save my
people from themselves. To help build Somalia, to pick up the
scattered remnants of rubble and painstakingly stitch them back
together.

Just like this little heart of mine, I’m gone let it shine… Let it shine,

Let it shine,

 

Let it shine.

Demons like Dreams

The thing about having demons in your closet is that you have to let them out from time to time. They need to be given attention, otherwise they’ll break out of the prison you’ve crafted for them and consume you whole. You have to talk to your demons, you have to feed them and give them sustenance. Some demons can be abandoned altogether, but most linger indefinitely.

The thing about letting your demons out of their 4×5 cell to go for a walk, to get some fresh air is.. once they taste a little bit of freedom, they remember just how oppressive that dark space you created for their confinement really is. They become reckless, high from the sudden loosening of their leash and unable to keep their desires hidden from you.

The thing about having demons is, we don’t always choose to carry them with us, but we have to acknowledge them just the same.

The thing about demons within our core being is, the more you try to avoid them, the more power they have over you. The more you tell yourself that everything is fine, the more the demons smirk with a reddish tint in their eyes; chuckling softly from an increasingly large corner of your very psyche.

The thing about these demons is, they are just as much a part of you as the face that stares back in the mirror every morning.

The thing is, these demons.. they’re actually the parts of yourself that you refuse to accept.

Embrace your demons, don’t shut us out. You’ll only hurt us in the long run, you’re only punishing yourself.