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“Hyphenated Identity Crisis,” by Bitaniya Giday

Hyphenated Identity Crisis


And the American war machine takes on the motherland

And I finally am no longer
A hyphenated identity crisis

See the words Ethiopian-American

Imply me a patriot for the casualty of war
they make out of my birthplace

We diaspora longed to find home on the winning
Side, in exchange our jaws grew jagged unfamiliarity
to the syllables on the new screens
each generation after the other

I cannot spell my name in my babas tongue
I cannot pronounce the city I was conceived in

my legs stay firm under a desk
while child soldiers
are born in between the legs of
a country
Marching as
Holy sites turned battlefields
Weep burning ashes,
The horizon

windpipes choke at
The sight of a bleeding mother
While Made in America guns make graveyard
Out of stick and stone battalions

But the exotic tropical flavors
Of the imported coffee
still makes its way into our veins
Become thicker than the blood
We are born into

the creamer washes
the taste of the bodies sweet
Enough to make death profitable
Down till it cannot sting our tongues or our memories

Candle wicks are set ablaze
Dripping wax across our hearts
Hardening this new partition

We are displaced

In the name of democracy
In the name of maintaining peace
In the name of America

Lies a hulled out wake
Lies bloodlines that lead back to
each of our hands

I am reborn survival on
American soil
But I cannot sleep here

I know the rain will never wash
Away this guilt

the sun always leaves, to return
Home without me

but the cracked diasporic mirror expired
my dual identity
the day

the war began

Bitaniya Giday is the 2020/21 Youth Poet Laureate. She is a first-gen Ethiopian American residing in Seattle. Her writing explores the nuances of womanhood and blackness, as she reflects upon her family’s path of immigration across the world. She hopes to restore and safeguard the past, present, and future histories of her people through traditional storytelling and poetry. Bitaniya read this poem to open our 2019/20 Literary Arts Series online event with Min Jin Lee.

Min Jin Lee’s novel, Pachinko, was also the inspiration for our Writers in the Schools 2019/20 Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest. Every year, WITS holds the Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest to celebrate the wisdom, creativity, and heart captured in student and teacher writing.

This year’s contest invited applicants to explore similar themes of “legacy,” based on the themes of Pachinko—to examine what legacies have shaped their lives, and to look into the future, to the legacy they hope to impart to the world. The contest was open to all students, grades K-12, attending a WITS partner school during this school year. Click here to read the winning poem, “They Said,” by Fenet Zeleke, and click here to read the Legacy Chapbook, showcasing some of our favorite contest submissions.

Posted in Literary Arts SeriesYouth Poet Laureate2019/20 Season