Prompts: August 2017

More Notes from the Canadian honey jar

#43: August 1, 2017

IDEA for setting: an Ethio soccer game week! (genesis of the story)

The street busker, black contortionist in neon green leopard print bodysuit, who could fit himself into a box. Maybe I could use that…? Seems ripe for metaphor-izing.

The giant statue of ‘American Gothic’. We posed in front of that. What that iconic image represents, any parallel to our own immigrant parents?

For us, a big part of the sightseeing pleasure is looking at the African American men (just like at Caribana). We sexualize, fetishize them just as bad as whites do! (and just as much as ‘ethiopian women’ are fetishized by them.)

So basically our days consisted of sightseeing/touring in the daytime, partying at night, sleeping, eating out.

So that’s what the main theme of the ESFNA experience is: relationships, new and old, and the keeping up of ‘appearances’, taking on of ‘personas’ that may/may not have anything to do with who we really are in our daily lives. Kind of like being at an all-inclusive resort, or being at Vegas (not that I’ve ever been). You’re supposed to leave everything there, and resume your  regular life, and your regular persona, when you return to your home city at the end of the week. But for that week, whatever city the event is being held in is ‘paradise’, and whoever you are during that week is your most impressive, nicest looking, self…

#44: August 2, 2017

For today, tizita! Beginning with, Mahmoud! (note: he repeats every lyric twice, I wonder why? I want to say it’s like a dialogue, except both speakers are saying the same thing to each other, and both speakers (the lover/beloved being absent) are just the one person, talking to him/herself in a way while also addressing/speaking for the absent beloved)


Tizitash zewetir wedene iyemeta: ‘tizita’ is personified, it’s masculine, it travels, it is drawn to the speaker.

Efoy yemilibet, hiwotey gize ata: ‘efoy’ is exhalation, it a verbalization of exhaling from relief, rest satisfaction; the ‘tizita’ denies the speaker this exhalation (makes me think of Waiting to Exhale); the speaker is denied the time to exhale, this implies a kind of relentless nature to ‘tizita’, it gives one no break, no respite, it’s constantly, always there always arriving.

Yetizita simet, lib lay nedaji: the feeling of ‘tizita’ is like fuel (combustible fuel) on the heart. Makes me think of the speed with which flames leap from gasoline, the way it rushes in the path of the gasoline, almost as fast as light; that rush of flame. Except here in this lyric the flame has not been touched to the fuel yet, but it’s there, sitting with the potential to be ignited. A feeling that is dormant, just waiting for the spark.

Aytefam mingizem yidafenal inji: exactly as I said, it never goes out. This lyric implies more the idea of hot coals covered over with ash, ‘muted’, in a way . Note that ‘gize’ is mentioned twice already. From previous lyric, which implied fuel, there is a change now to coals, which is a kind of fuel too I guess. But it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor situation!

Endalangoragur miye tegeziche: no idea what this means. The speaker is prevented from speaking/murmuring/lamenting because of some oath/vow. Seems religious somehow. I don’t think he literally means he’s been paid to keep silent. gizot is the noun form, I guess, hence tegeziche. What does gizot mean? I’m thinking ‘exile’ but not sure…according to online dictionary, it means abandonment, exclusion, banishment, dungeon

So speaker is silenced by some kind of abandonment/banishment (I was right re: exile!) and also a vow…?

Tadia indet yaschilegn, tizitan semichei: hmmm, and yet the speaker is finding it hard to keep this (vow?) of (silence?) because the (sound of?) tizita is so strong. Here the tizita is farther away, heard from afar, instead of an arriving force.

Yihen chewatayen, indet lasamirew: ah the concept of ‘chewata’, literally: play, but what’s meant is conversation, pleasant, engaging conversation. The speaker is wondering how he can ‘beautify’ his conversation, how he can make what he’s talking about more appealing (for who?)

Keftogn aydelem wey, yemangoragurew: oh, nevermind, I don’t think he’s actually trying to find a way to make his conversation appealing, he’s saying ‘how can I make it appealing when the reason for my speaking/lament/humming is because I’m feeling bad. So not only can he not be silent, but he can’t help making sounding unappealing.

Esti belu ingidih, derdirulign krar: putting out a summons to the listener to prepare, set up a krar, since he’s about to get into it. This is the first time the speaker is speaking to an imagined audience. Only the first line directly addresses the beloved who, being absent, forces the speaker to turn to others, despite the risk of dampening their spirits with sorrowful talk.

Mechem teqorantognal, tizita kene gar: tizita has bound/attached itself in the speaker (it controls him). ‘gar’ implies less of a control, and more of a co-habitation arrangement!

Yehasabu menga, libe yetagorew: there’s an army/mob/horde of thoughts stuffed/stored in his heart.

Bewota biye new yemangoragurew:  song without uttering words, humming song, song of sadness, low spirits

He’s singing that song on the chance that maybe it will release all those thoughts

Endiyaw amehagnto, asabo be-krar: using the krar as an excuse…

Yawezazwizugnal ketizitaye gar: makes me sway with my tizita…

Erikalehu bilew menorian bileyu: one can decided to distance oneself by living apart…

Yemital tizita, wosen akalayu: titiza will still come, (something about) borders…

Aserku atebekut, zegahut silewu: I though I had tied tightly, closed…

Minew yehe hoden, dinget kifit alewu: how come my stomach feels bad all of a sudden…

Tizitan siquagnut, yeweregnal derso: when tizita is viewed, (no idea…)

Yimelesal libe, agerun adarso: my heart return after having roamed the whole country…

Krar sidereder yirebeshal hode: when the krar is played, my stomach is disturbed/troubled…

Masinqo simeta, yirebeshal hode: when he masikno is played, my stomach is troubled…

Betizita mezez, idayweta gude: so that because of tizita(‘s provocation) my business does not come out…

Tizitaye, tizita: addressing tizita as a person again, using the term of endearment…

Tizitaye, tizita

Tizitaye, tizita

Tizitaye, tizitaaaa

I want to do the same deconstruction/translation of Bezawork’s version (idea: Bezawork and Mahmoud as a couple…)

On first glace, hers seems much more complex, the meaning much harder to decipher, and not necessarily about love, but more about the nature of memory in general. That’s the thing, ‘tizita’ can be about anything really, as long as it is in the past and doesn’t let one go. Only when it is personified as a she/he by a singer of the opposite gender does it become about love. I think Bezawork’s tizita is about that general meaning of memory, its nature, its traits, etc. Perhaps that’s a path I could follow. Instead of zoning in on the 4 forms as different facets of love, just look at the broader interpretations (memory, betrayal, joy, lack, etc.) that the songs could have, the wider theme of the song, which happens to be expressed in a romantic context.

#46: August 8, 2017

…in the mind of such a man, there’s a very clear difference between who he is as a man and who he is as a father, totally separate sets of values that don’t touch. [I’ve often wondered this about all our fathers. We think of them as asexual in a way.]

#50: August 23, 2017

What the dads say to their daughters: bring me any son-in-law but [insert ethnicity/religion].

Not feeling this prompt-writing today. I really hope it all adds up to something when it’s all done in…fifteen days. Not fifteen consecutive days, of course! But fifteen more of these sessions where I sit and stare at the strip of paper with the prompt on it and think “fuuuuck” and then I start typing anyway and almost always something emerges which I had not anticipated. I’m looking forward to reading all sixty-five of them when I’m done! And seeing what kind of story emerges. It won’t be predictable, that’s for sure. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really going to write it in the format that I’ve said I would in the grant applications. Answer to that: doubt it! But who knows…Sometimes I think I should just drop it with all the complicating (ballad forms, etc.) and just tell the damn story, whatever that is!

Now I’m wondering if they know, and that was their roundabout way (as that generation do) of telling us don’t even think about keeping those boys or considering them for the long term, as in the permanent long term a.k.a. marriage. Don’t even think about bringing those home to me. (technically, it would be their representatives). That’s not a farfetched possibility. The parents know us and what we’re up to way more than we think, just as much as they have no clue about certain things, because their minds absolutely refuse to associate us with those certain things (see also: my writing about how we kids also refuse to associate our parents with certain things, like sleeping with or even desiring someone other than our mom/dad, whether they are widowed or not).  What we forget is that they were young once too, and hiding their own things from their parents.

So maybe they don’t feel that they can out-and-out confront us, forbid us, but they also want to us them know, gently, that what we are doing is not okay. As well, they don’t want to discourage us from dating either, because what they ultimately want for us was to find someone to take over the responsibility for them? Despite the acquiring of university education, it seems to me that what we’re being groomed all along for is marriage. Not in a blatant, last-century kind of way. But the education really is a stepping stone, the means to an end, the end being married life (double security).

The irony is that the husbands who turn out to be a shit-show, a total failure and disappointment, are the ones that would have passed with flying colours on paper…Which goes to show you that all these arbitrary conditions we place on who is ‘suitable’ and who is ‘not suitable’ are just that, arbitrary, bullshit. There’s no predictor of the future, how someone will turn out in the future…than the future!

#52: August 25, 2017

My thoughts while visiting AAU campus this summer

What I mostly felt was sadness, deep nostalgia. I felt like I was walking through history.

The trees were what struck me the most. The sheer size and age of the trees. They represented…everything. They had seen it all, from the beginning. The love stories, the political stories, the day-to-day happenings.

That campus seemed just soaked in history, ghosts.

And it also looked so old, so in need of renovation. It was hard to believe, coming from the spick and span look of universities in the West, that actual higher learning that could be actually applicable in the world, could take place in such run down areas.

More than the buildings, it was the grounds, especially the trees, that seemed majestic, so full of story.

I just kept thinking ‘he was here, she was here, he was here, she was here’ over and over.

It just felt like I was walking (wading?) through layers of history: the country’s (esp. the emperor) recent and past history; and my family (my parents); and mine (the times I spent at the library when I was young, and the time my mother and I visited when we were in Ethiopia for holiday). I felt like I was adding my own few little paragraphs to the history of this place, returning as the grown product of two people who spent so much of their time and of their early life together here.

We always think history began with us. Just like kids who think their parents began when they became aware of them, recognized them in our consciousness as a separate consciousness. As if we created them and not the other way around!

#53: August 29, 2017

In the end, everyone settles, I guess. Everyone weighs the positives against the negatives and if the former outweighs the latter, they shack up! If it goes bad, then something good will also have come out of it. Like a couple of kids, property, a story to rehash over wine.

I want a world without mistakes, maybe that’s it. I can’t stomach the idea of such a big decision being a mistake, because there’s no time for a do-over! Then again, there’s also no time to get back the time you spent rejecting options!

Mistakes. That’s it. I can see so clearly the mistakes that were made, are about to be made, will be made. To avoid mistakes you have to do nothing.

It’s all a jumble of hits and misses and hits and misses. Just some misses have a bigger impact than others and that’s scary.

#54: August 30, 2017

*random idea! One of the characters (habesha female) is dead set on marrying a Nigerian because they are go-getters and globally successful in just about every field.

There comes a point in a friendship (sistership) when, depending on your history, when you know that no matter what happens (that person does or says, or you hear they said or did) you’ll always give her the benefit of the doubt. No matter what. Of course, the opposite also applies. You also reach a point when you know that you won’t give her the benefit of the doubt anymore. She’s one strike from being out, just doesn’t know it.

It is all about the benefit of the doubt. You are benefitting from the fact that I have doubt. Doubt that is in your favour. Doubt that you would do me wrong, say something bad or incorrect about me, harm me – all of these intentionally. That’s the key thing. Intent.

…when it comes time to exercise that ‘benefit of the doubt’, it’s those differences that we jump to immediately as explanation for the action or behaviour that is forcing us to exercise that benefit of the doubt. The inner monologue goes something like this “I knew that [insert the thing that is different] would one day [insert the alleged crime] to me.” It could be ethnicity, or class, or faith. So “I knew that Muslim/white/spoiled brat would one day say such and such about me/do such and such to me.” The main area of difference might have been the thing that made the friendship possible in the first place. It may be what gave it its ‘zing’ all along. It may also be the thing that lay just under the surface, buried in wait, liable to surface/detonate at just the right ‘doubt-inducing’ incident. Like a weapon just hidden out of sight for the time being.

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