Editors letter

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Dear Araweelos,

We are so thrilled to be able to share Issue 03 with you! We’ve poured our hearts into this issue and we are incredibly proud of it. We’re hella excited for you to be back in this space and to have you read what we’ve been working on! We’ve missed our community of Araweelos and we are so touched by how many of you have contacted us and supported the magazine over the years!

As you may have noticed, we are back from our self-imposed hiatus. If you’re new here, you might be wondering: Who is we? We are two first-cousins living on opposite ends of the world. Araweelo Abroad was born in 2014 after we spent much time dreaming up a unique and ground-breaking culture magazine for our community. Although we had no blueprint or examples to work from other than our own vision for the magazine, we were armed with a commitment to our community and a DIY attitude.

Araweelo Abroad is a true passion project and it was born out of an intense love for our Somaliniimo and a desire to celebrate all the different ways to be Somali. A lot of work goes into making Araweelo Abroad happen and that work is done almost entirely by just the two of us. After two incredibly successful issues, we needed to hit the pause button to each focus on school, work, and our lives. But we always knew that it was just a pause. We want to thank each and every one of you who emailed us, tweeted at us, DM’d us and kept asking for more issues. We love your love and we thank our community for seeing us.

Issue 03 is our biggest issue yet! So what will you find in this issue? So much amazing content that we can only give you a small taste in this letter! We have an exclusive interview with Celeste Dos Santos, daughter of Somali punk rock icon Poly Styrene of X-ray Spex. We spoke to Celeste about her mother’s legacy as a punk rock pioneer. In this issue you will also find an interview with Momtaza Mehri, a brilliant poet and essayist who was kind enough to share some of her work. For all the art babes out there, we spoke with Mariane Ibrahim on what it’s like owning a successful art gallery. Ask An Abaayo is a new section we are introducing. We encourage all of our abaayos who are in need of life advice to write to us!

We also can’t leave without commenting on how the global political climate is a hot mess right now and how it’s an especially bleak time to be Somali in the United States. So, we got in touch with a few Araweelos to talk about Trump, the Muslim travel ban, and what self-care looks like in response to the Islamophobic, xenophobic, and anti-black targeting of the Somali community in the U.S.  

Right now more than ever, it is critical for platforms like Araweelo Abroad to exist. We believe in Somalis being in charge of our own narratives. We believe in content created by us, for us! That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that we will be bringing Issue 04 to you both digitally and in print. Economic/class privilege is a real thing in our community, so that’s why we’re committed to keeping Araweelo Abroad accessible for everyone.

Araweelo Abroad was created to showcase and celebrate the complexity and the diversity of the Somali experience in the diaspora. We will continue to do this work and make sure that this platform remains available to all of ya’ll. After all, we created it as a cyber homecoming for all Somalis: the Baati babes, our queer Somali fam, the womanists/feminists, Somali creatives and tastemakers, the ones with anti-capitalist/anti-racist politics, the religious kids, the bomb ass hijabis, transgender and gender non-conforming Somali fam, the hooyo mataalo/say wallahi gang, the commies/socialists, the indie kids, the art babes, etc. We created Araweelo Abroad for all our (Somali) niggas in the whole wide world.

Welcome to Issue 03 and thank you for continuing to support our work!


Sagal and Ifrah

Editors of Araweelo Abroad.

Survival in the Age of Trump

Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz

Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz

Since he announced his presidency, many people have been living with the fear of life under a Trump administration. For some, fear of the state is not new. Others are experiencing for the first time the fear that marginalized people live with on a daily basis. Either way, our collective dystopian fears became a reality as Trump won the 2016 U.S. Election. Wasting no time, the Trump administration began to target marginalized communities in an emboldened way by taking racist actions such as issuing the Executive Order that created the Muslim Travel Ban. The original travel ban had a list of several countries whose citizens were not to be permitted entry into the United States. Somalia was on that list.

The administration demurred at the accusations that the Executive Order was racist, Islamophobic, and specifically targeted Muslims. Instead, the administration continued to state that the purpose of the Executive Order was to protect the U.S. from foreign “terrorist” entry. Despite Somalia specifically being named as one of 7 countries on the travel ban list, the targeting of Somali Americans and our homeland is not new. Somali Americans exist at the intersections of Blackness, our Muslim identity, and the experience of being Refugees. Despite what a bleak time it is to be a Somali in the United States, the reality is that our community has always been resilient. We spoke with several Somali-American Araweelos to see how they’re holding up and practicing resiliency and self-care in the face of the blatant xenophobic, islamophobic, and anti-black targeting of the Somali community.


1)     Hamda Yusuf, graduate student.

I was living in Austria when Donald Trump won the election. I remember I had made the decision of going to an election party, despite the fact that I was teaching in the morning. I had left the party around 3am, distraught but still hopeful. The time difference meant that we wouldn’t know anything final until the next day. After sleeping for a few hours, I woke to dozens of messages on my phone. The first was a BBC headline, nice and simple: “Donald Trump new President of the US”. I screamed. Like a real sitcom scream that only lasted a second until I quickly clamped my hand over my mouth. Being abroad meant that while everyone back in the States was reeling from this news, the people I was around couldn’t care less. My students, however, were outraged. In my lessons I was confronted with their demands to know how this could have possibly happened. They asked, “Are Americans really this stupid?” and perhaps more accusingly, “How could America have let this happen?” I wanted to tell them that America had always operated this way. That whiteness had the power to convince its people that everyone is trying to take something away from them, even if they’re the ones doing the taking. I wanted to explain that the United States had been built on this fear and that it would continue to build on this fear.

When I went home that day I found myself having to reassure my white friends. I had to hold their hands and tell them surely everything would be alright. This too made me want to scream. Not a sitcom scream but a deep down in your gut, ancestral scream. Here I was, a Somali Muslim woman who surely would be far more affected by this presidency than these people, and yet I had to be the one that reassured them.  I had to be the one who did the emotional labor for these white women who it seemed only yesterday discovered there was injustice in this world.

After the election I began burning frankincense more often. All I knew was that I wanted everything that I owned to smell like my mother. This was my first act of self-care. My second act was a larger undertaking, refusing to do emotional labor for others. I thought back on the countless conversations I had with people who eagerly played devil’s advocate. I thought about those who came to me with what they saw as innocent questions, but what I saw as their unwillingness to discover anything on their own. In the end, I knew two things to be true: 1. that my people were resilient, and 2. that I was a product of this resiliency. These things continue to be true with the addition of a final one, 3. I will fight back.


2)     R. Haji, graduate student.

I didn't start being fearful and anxious about Trump coming into power until the end of January. I remember sitting on a bench outside the library crying after hearing about the banned countries- how Somalia was on there. I don't have family in Somalia; most of them live in Kenya, the U.S. and other countries in Europe. A professor came up to me to joke as we usually do when we see each other. He saw me crying and hugged me. I explained my fears about members of my family, especially my dad cause he is a dual citizen, getting sent back regardless of being legalized citizens. I was sad for that whole day and isolated. 

That was it- I gave myself two days in that week to feel and to feel deeply. My friends and I, we all were trying to find ways of caring for one another and being present for our own selves. This looked like not talking about what was going on. Grief, to me, is a very easy and accessible state to be in... reminding myself of all the possibilities that lie in the world and to see my family members doing their everyday activities. We play, send memes, talk shit, send nudes to each- we are just girls together. And so, that's what I did and still do. Practicing aliveness. It's not utopic nor is it escape from feeling and confronting this reality. It's an acceptance of all the terror in the world but still recognize the beauty and aliveness in just living. Assata Shakur, in her poem "Affirmation," she writes, "I believe in living." That's how I practice intimacy and care for myself- and for all the people around me who are moving in the world– upset, hurt, happy, in love, sad, alone– all of this is our full recognition of living and of being. 

And then there is this poem. A remainder though there need not be a reminding of something that we all know- our aliveness. 



“We are pursuing an investigation here on the subject of crying as an expression of the emotions, and should like very much to learn about its peculiarities among the colored people. We have been referred to you as a person competent to give us information on the subject. We desire especially to know about the following salient aspects: 1. Whether the Negro sheds tears...”


           he do
           she do
           they live
           they love
           they try
           they tire
           they flee
           they fight
           they bleed
           they break
           they moan
           they mourn
           they weep
           they die
           they do
           they do
           they do


3)     Lula Dualeh, content marketing strategist & writer.

 If I had to choose which of the stages of grief I currently fall into, I would be somewhere in between denial and anger. I wake up some days panic-stricken with disbelief that Trump is our president but at the same time, he has awaken a new hunger for liberation within me. Trump is an everyday reminder of what white male privilege looks like in modern times. Although, at times it’s easier to forget about the systems that are constantly work against us, I'm no longer afforded that luxury especially as a first-generation Somali-American millennial Muslim woman. Every time I refresh my feed, I'm reminded that hate has not only been green-lighted but encouraged at the expense of people who look like me. 

More than anything else, I'm fearful for my mother. Every day we hear new stories of hate crimes against immigrants and undocumented individuals, especially women of color. The reality that one day I could get a call that my Somali-hijabi mother has been assaulted or worse is a heavy burden of worry I carry around with me every day. My greatest solace lies in prayer because Allah (swt) knows best. I try my hardest to leave my fears with him because I know, ultimately, I can't function in this world with it. I can't have any space for fear especially when dealing with this new evil that consumes our country. It's a work-in-progress but my faith in God and love for humanity gives me strength to resist another day. 


4)    Ugaso Sheik-Abdi, web developer.


On Trump’s Election: Fear. For myself, and for my people. We convince ourselves that the next generation will have an easier time, that the bigots will slowly kill themselves with their hate, that our progeny will not experience the same trauma’s we have. How terrible and short our memories are.

One example: I’m lucky to have a 9-5 job where I can afford to travel. I started going into panic mode: where was my passport? Oh shit, it’s expired! I spent a couple weeks getting my renewed passport and passport card, and looking into TSA Precheck. Who knows how long passports with my kind of name will take to process, in this new administration.

Right before the election, I had taken small steps to practice self-care and start my journey healing from childhood trauma. I was not prepared (who was?). My therapist recommended practicing harm-reduction. Here are some steps I’ve taken to stay sane in the age of Trump:

·      Limiting time on social media and the constant stream of information, outrage.

·      Doing tangible, actionable things: making art, cleaning, planting succulents.

·      Practicing mindfulness: I attended a mindfulness retreat for people of color recently, that taught me techniques to reduce stress and tension.





Araweelo Abroad x Momtaza Mehri

Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and literary studies researcher. Her work has been featured and is forthcoming in Poetry Society, PANK Magazine, Bone Bouquet, The Rialto, DAZED, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. Her chapbook sugah lump prayer was published in April 2017 as part of the New Generation African Poets series

She has been shortlisted for the 2016 Brunel African Poetry Prize and Plough Prize and won the 2017 Outspoken Page Poetry Prize. A Complete Works Fellow, she will be anthologised in Ten: Poets of The New Generation (2017). She also co-edits Diaspora Drama, a digital platform showcasing international immigrant art. She has performed her poetry in universities, literary festivals and conferences.  Currently, she is working on her first full poetry collection. With a background in biomedical science, she has worked as a health educator, language teacher and editor. She tries her best not to believe in astrology or borders.



SA: How did you get into writing poetry?

Momtaza: I was always surrounded by poetry, in the lyrical gabay sense as well as the general musicality of the Somali language. It's always been a grounding presence in my life and something I return to, wherever or however I find myself. I definitely got confident enough to put pen to paper during my emo phase, with the help of Vampire Freaks forums, Full Metal Alchemist YouTube fanvids & fanfiction sites. The anonymity of URL culture gave me the freedom to share my first poems. Honestly, I think as a Somali I was born into poetry. I just had to exercise this particular limb I inherited.

SA: Are there any themes you like to adhere to when writing?

Momtaza: Thematically, I'm interested in the many lies we tell ourselves, as well as the lies that are told about us. The entitlement we sometimes feel to the stories of survivors, to reliving their pain whether they've asked us to or not. The awe I feel when I think about how much our community has gone through, and continues to go through. How mundane and every-day displacement and transgenerational patterns of heartache are. I’m interested not so much in violence, but how we still lean back and giggle after its repetitive occurrence. Lately, I've been writing a lot about faith, flirting and those spaces where language fails me.

SA: Has there been a specific moment in your life that has influenced your poems in any way?

Momtaza: Too many. My life is an extension of everyone who has invested time and love into me. Like many eldest daughters, I grew up too fast. So, yes, I have many stories. That's not to say my poetry is 100% confessional but there's a lot of shit I'm still processing. I will write about seeing a possessed woman scratching the walls getting the jinn exorcised out of her. About men who refuse to talk about how they lost all their fingers. About constantly moving to and from somewhere. Documenting these stories is my way of record-keeping. I don't want to sound like a parasite but I learn a lot from the heartbreaks of those closest to me. I want to honour their survival and daily joy. The women of our community, especially, amaze me every day with stories of what they’ve had to overcome, the dreams they had to shelve and what they’ve spent lifetimes protecting us from. Their stories mean so much to me.


SA: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

 Definitely. I'm glad I stumbled across such a variety of forms. Poetry that isn't afraid to toy with language and draw from so many worlds. You don't have to be confined to borders or other people's fantasies of what a refugee or diasporic poet should sound like. I am not responsible for the crisis in anyone's imagination. Of course, #diasporablues is very real and I too sometimes feel like my entire life is an out-of-body experience. But that’s not the only kind of poetry we can produce. Being reduced to that can mean your work or craft is being read only as anthropology. I tried to read my way backwards as well as searching out contemporary experimental poets to give me a good idea of all that is possible. Then, I started seeing poetry where I didn’t expect it.  Poetry is how we're still singing Tala' al-Badru 'Alaynā more than 1400 years later. It's how Somali girls turn into the best hype-women when their friends are dancing. It's our intra-diaspora jokes about who has the worst accent. It’s what hooyo sings under her breath as she does the laundry. It’s habibi Frank Ocean telling us he ain’t gone wallahi. You can write about all of that and it's OK. It's all poetry, all Gucci.

SA: Who do you read or what poems do you turn to in times of need?

Momtaza: Essex Hemphill because there is so much communal love in his words. Akilah Oliver because she was so terrifyingly sensitive. Her poetry is like remembering a dream after you've woken up. Faysal Cumar Mushteeg because I have to shout out the OG's who speak of love and loss in the language of my grandparents. Also don't think I can continue without naming Mahmoud Darwish as I learnt so much about the absence I and those around me felt in our bones through him. Sandra Cisneros and Lorna Dee Cervantes for my borderlands feels.

SA: What are you currently reading and/or working on?

Momtaza: Right now I’m working my way through; Jasmine Gibson’s Drapetomania, i be, but i ain't by Aziza Barnes, The Consequences of My Body by Maged Zaher and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe, the last of which I’ve been dipping into and digesting bit by bit. I would also recommend Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans to anyone else in a love-hate relationship with rappers. In my research, I’ve been reading Rashad Hashim’s work. He’s a Sudanese poet who's also technically British as he was born in and references London. He and his love and fellow poet Zina Mahjoub are like the Sudanese Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes, but with henna painted hands.

Currently, I'm working on my first full collection which will hopefully be out before the world ends. I'll also be published in a few upcoming anthologies so Alhamdulillah overall.

SA: What advice would you give to other young women who want to start writing poetry?

Momtaza: You've probably heard it before but READ. Then READ some more. Lose yourself in women who look like you, who speak like you, who hurt like you. Ignore everyone who tells you this is a small bubble. I can guarantee you their bubble is even smaller. Then branch out to your heart's desire. Write from the centre. You are the centre. Have the confidence of a token black man in an artsy crowd. Weaponize your longing. Weaponize what makes you different. You don’t have to only write truth to power, you can turn your back on it too. There are more options than you can imagine. Most of all, find/create a network of women to remind you of how necessary your work is on the worst days.


Sagal Abdulle is an Editor of Araweelo Abroad


By Ahlam A.

january 2013 

i thought about my family. i thought about the complexities of my fucked up identity. i thought about my queerness. my somaali-ness. my relationship with allah. i thought about jamila. i grab my headphones from the depths of my backpack. i try my best to hold back tears. but i cried a cry that i could feel throughout my spine.

august 2013

the train halted at its final stop. i grabbed my belongings and rushed down the aisle towards the exit door. the air was cold and breezy. i remember the conversation i had with aabo last week over the phone. i could hear in his voice that he’s aging and that he’s heartbroken. i don’t speak much. i haven’t told him about jamila. we never speak about marriage and we never speak about hooyo. after a long pause he says, “i haven’t seen you in so long, when will you come see me?” i remember the smell of his ‘attar, his hearty laugh, and sad eyes. “soon aabo, i promise, soon.” we hung up the phone with silence lingering on both ends.

february 2014

i came home to the smell of warm caanjeero and lianne la havas plays lightly throughout our shabby apartment we called home. i slip off my shoes and toss my hijab over the couch. i make my way towards the kitchen. i kiss her temples and grab her waist. she laughs. i hold her tighter. through her skin i can smell jannah and home. jamila loves me. every night after we recite our duas together, she whispers to me, “macaanto, don’t forget i love you.” 

june 2014

“hey love, come home soon. i need to know you’re alright.” jamila sends me a text. and i rush to the nearest taxi. my palms start to sweat. i run up the seven flights of stairs with my heart sitting in my throat. i struggle finding the house key to open the door. i yell for her name. last week jamila told me she wanted to tell her family about us. about our love. she sits with her phone in her hand shaking. “i was going to wait and ask you first, but i didn’t want you to stop me.” i wasn’t mad. i was looking at her deep brown eyes. and then her soft lips. “jamila, what did they say?” she looks at me with earnest eyes with grief painted on her face. “hooyo told me she is sending curses upon us.. abdirizaq told me to fuck off and to never claim somaali again. ruwaydah says she will never claim a dyke as her family.” she paused. she hadn’t mentioned her ayeeyo. “and ayeeyo says she’ll pray that allah shows us mercy and that he’ll find a spot for us in jannah.” she fell to the ground yanking her hair and screamed.

december 2014

last night i found jamila huddled in the corner of the shower. her hair matted against her face. water was running with red streams. i grab her hands furiously. she told me she stopped. i ran to grab the first aid kit inside the kitchen cupboards. i shut the water off and wrapped her in a soft yellow towel. i gently wrap her arms with an ace bandage and apply pressure. i kiss both her arms and pick her up to the bed. i grabbed her favorite baati, the one i brought with me from my visit with my auntie, and dressed her. she’s unresponsive. i walk towards the stereo and turn surah al-baqarah on. it plays softly throughout the house. “i’m sorry,” she manages to say through her quivering lips. i lay her down and tuck her into bed. i shut the blinds and dim the lights. she gestures for me to lay by her. i grab my gold and black quran and place her head into my lap. i read to her until she drifts off to sleep. i turn the lamp off and say my duas for the both of us. before drifting off to sleep, i whisper, “i love you macaanto. may allah sustain us both.”

may 2015

jamila left yesterday to do umrah. something has changed with her. i lay in bed naked smoking a cigarette i bummed off a man at the train stop. i haven’t prayed in 3 weeks.

june 2015

we made love three times that night. until our sweat was the only thing familiar between us. 


photo credit: http://atlin.cc/


5 Films about Black Women

by Samiira Garane

We consider ourselves to be film fans here at Araweelo Abroad. While we lean more towards art house/ international films/ classics, we always prioritize films about the black diaspora generally and black women specifically. Here’s a brief list of 5 films/docs we love. Turn one of these on the next time you’re lost in the Netflix/Hulu/HBO black hole looking for something to watch!

1)     What Happened Miss Simone? dir. Liz Garbus (2015)

What happened to the most exquisite musician to have ever graced the stage? What Happened Miss Simone? is a heart-breaking tale of one of the most gifted musical artists of our time. On full display are Nina Simone’s turbulent relationship with her family and her attempts at seeking refuge fromboth her stardom and the racism that plagued African Americans during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. What Happened Miss Simone? Is an intimate portrayal of Nina Simone. Garbus masterfully crafts an answer to the question many of Nina Simone’s fans have been asking.

2)    Daughters of the Dust dir. Julie Dash (1991)

The name of this gorgeous and lush independent film by Julie Dash resurfaced when Beyoncé referenced it in the music video for her album Lemonade. The film itself is an expressionistic tale of three generations of Gullah women wo are preparing to make the migration north. The film gained praise for showcasing the Gullah people and how they’ve managed to preserve their African heritage, culture and rituals. It also gives a peek into the lives of these three generations of women and how they deal with troubles within themselves, their own communities and navigating desires that might steer them away from their history.

3)    Pariah dir. Dees Rees (2011)

Pariah is both a coming of age and coming out story. At the center of the film is a Brooklyn teenager named Alike whose attempts at navigating her identity is thwarted by her parent’s rejection and denial of her sexuality. Rees’s film gives us an intimate view of a timid black queer girl in the throes of teenage self-discovery. Adepero Oduyes portrayal of the film’s protagonist makes it all the more heartfelt and compelling.

4)    The Watermelon Woman dir. Chantel Dunye (1996)

Chantel Dunye’s mission to excavate the lives of black women in old Hollywood movies who were often left uncredited goes beyond her search for the actress only know as Watermelon Woman. Dunye’s funny and thoughtful film looks closely at the complicated lives of a queer black women in the 1990s, the 1940s and today.

5)    Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners dir. Shola Lynch (2013)

Free Angela Davis is a riveting documentary about Angela Davis’s time behind bars after her social activism embroiled her in a botched kidnapping/murder attempt. Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners illustrates a rare example of when a nation rallied behind a black woman to prove her innocence and set her free.


Samiira Garane is a staff writer at Araweelo Abroad

Garissa / Burning Frankincense

by Sadia Hassan


There was the lorry that carried aye Fahmo and Bahsho across

baked earth, and that too was Garissa.


There were the questions that came back half chewed,

ambapo ni kipanda yako? Where are your papers?


The Swahili we swallowed in terror, the eyes yellowed from heat

darting across skin and the answers panted back slick with sweat: Sujui.                                                                              


I don’t know in one language

Somali-Kenyan in the other.


Garissa, where I’d become a woman

swimming in a language too big for her body

until my body

favoring loss

learned to speak

in absence.


There were the soldiers red-hatted—toothpicks

an extra appendage hanging wet and alert—that tried once

to woo me off a bus with red eyes and a wink.


Told me I’d been the woman

smuggling children yesterday,

and today a baby goat.  


The goat’s not mine, I said,

knowing maybe no longer

was Garissa


nor the refugee camp which housed us

nor the dust lining my toes

nor this language

and the tongue around it


Burning Frankincense


“He showed me how a drop of tequila on its tail can make a scorpion sting itself to death.”

Amy Hempel, reasons to live


We found him after Raxma left,

A moldy pile beneath the covers.


I checked for breath beneath the rubble

and found him wet with sleep and tequila.


Mama checked the walls for shit stains,

found only a film of sweat.


Baba burned frankincense to hide the smell

Of trapped heat and urine. I stood


close to the bed, protective. I stood

over the edge, unmoving.


The radio played Mohamed Mooge

Plucking strings on a tin banjo


In the song, a young man laments

Hadad laheyn maxaad siin?


If you have nothing, what are you to give?


Baba hides his watering eyes behind the smoke.

Mama busies herself with the window.


Sadia Hassan is a Somali writer living Oakland, CA. Her work has previously appeared in The Dartmouth, The Dartmouth Radical, Black Girl Dangerous, Documentum and is forthcoming in VQR and Halal if you Hear Me, an anthology of Muslim writers. She writes obsessively about the geography of loss, about displacement and belonging, wars and borders, trauma, refugee migration, and healing through ritual. She is a graduate of Dartmouth’s African/African-American Studies and Creative Writing program and is a Fine Arts Work Center Summer Fellow and the inaugural Terry Tempest Williams Fellow for Land and Justice at Mesa Refuge. You can contact her at: s.hassan09@gmail.com


Small talk / The unthought has a comb

by Momtaza Mehri


Small talk

you michelangelo’s crouching boy/ you d’angelo’s purr/ you dead currency/ you dead presidents/ you a stick of incense/ you a stick-up artist/ you haraami/ you the hum of a lifetime basined in my lap/ count our tallies of loss backwards for me/ run to the bank & translate it into a lush of green of your choice/ or something else sanctified / or european/ pick the synonym of your choice.

in a traditional sense/ the body holds its arithmetic/ exports its outwards/ to the touch and exhale/ twinned and spent against a groan of concrete/ here, an elevator is our only spiritual ascension/ can i be excused from living so slimly?

i dream you closer too/ besides the honey-coloured dog licking its vulva/ a silent laugh swelling inside your throat/ ask me about blood clots and spun coins/ the cracked skin of heels/ anything but the nightly heartbreaks of / too many addresses/ and all the ways/ i am still auditioning/ for this country’s approval.

The unthought has a comb

Friday night communion looks like washing your hair as the water swallows your people.

Do it anyway. Two picks at hand, MANAFACTURED IN NIGIERIA,

the teeth a fine row of discipline.  Remind me. It hurts. It should.

Olive oil to drip down the elbows, the good stuff,

poured how you were taught. Slicken down the pauses. Shea—spit mix,

for the baby hairs,

set the helical right down to the lid.

Mama gave you a head of hair to write about,

the kind that’s a second passport. We all nurse our blessings.

A new-born dangles between his mother’s legs, the sea his first taste of salt.

This too, a blessing. A woman splits herself apart, an ankle in each time zone.

A meaning in none. 


Claim nothing more than each knuckle’s crack, the Lord’s work in each braid,

to the quick. Loop a finger in coil and split

the shore in half. Bring back those who left.

All their small deaths line the dressing table,

balanced on its lip, and floating.

Prick the greased scalp awake.  Takes a good two hours, sometimes more,

to set the waves in motion.


There is no ‘us’. You, untangling, from inside the island,

the child of rolled dice and fluke,

collapsing yourself into a guilt,

made for your own longing.

One Year and Eleven Months

By Hawa Y. Mire

one year and eleven months

We drive through the winding grave site unable to pinpoint at first exactly which grave ayeeyo is in.

We stop, section 12.

Aabo asks me to jump out and check the number of the grave in front of me. I open the door, drop into crunchy fresh snow and use my fingertips to wipe away snow from slate. Abdullah. Muslim. The right section.

We turn the car around and just as suddenly as nearly two years ago I am back here again, standing over her grave- all of my aunts, her children, around me. Lips moving, Quran under breath. The kind of sobbing that sounds as dry as tinder used to spark fire, the heaves an inhalation of smoke. My legs move, muscle memory. They know precisely the location of her grave.

We pile out.

Aabo, me, my visiting uncle from Australia.

His aunt lying in the ground beneath us.

We huddle around one another. The white snow disappearing into the gravel beneath us and read the requisite prayer over the dead. All I can think about is whether or not she hears us. Whether or not she is sitting up in her grave watching us pray over her.

My father leaves first, first to arrive. I'm next and my uncle follows long moments later.

The boot patterns of melting snow follow us onto the grey speckled pavement. The car is eerily silent until we drive through the same winding roads, and exit from the main gate. The air thick begins to loosen itself around my lungs.

Aabo begins to suddenly speak                                                                                      it was this kind of cold when we buried her but we were lucky, the ground was hard enough, not wet so it made the job easy.

He doesn't talk often of what happened that day after the women left the mosque, and the men went to bury my grandmother.

we made sure to put her in a good sturdy box so she wouldn’t get wet.

In less time than it takes him to utter those words, I’m quickly back in the mosque where I saw her last. Her body shrouded in white, being placed into a large wooden coffin. As the janazah began, and the iman began to intone the familiar words, sidling under his words was the steady pounding of nails into coffin.




The closing of lid, the finality of her body taken from us. That was the first time in weeks I cried, huge rolling tears dripping from my chin to chest.

Sad again, pained again, grieving again, I sit in the back of the car. My father and uncle continue talking about all kinds of everyday things. And I sit, looking out the window, thinking of how our noses go crooked the moment just after death.

And I try not to cry.

Saving Money For Travel

By Hodan Ahmed

My number one motivation for working has always been travel. The minute I could travel, I did, and I haven’t stopped since. As a Somali woman, it is something I’ve had to fight with my family to be able to do, but I’ve found that it is often the case for something you love. I love the ritual and excitement of a trip, and my two favourites are packing and saving as they make the trip that much more real.

Saving is hard for a lot of people, including myself. After running out of money 3 weeks into a 4 week holiday in the U.S and having to call my family for money, I vowed to be a better saver. Saving like anything else is a habit you have to practice in your daily life, and saving for travel is everyday saving and budgeting, but on steroids. Below are a few helpful tips for people who struggle to save money for their travels:

1.   Make a budget. If you don’t already have one, make a budget. This is something you need for your everyday life, and even more so for travel. Make one column for necessities like rent, bills, food, and a second one for extras. Ask yourself – “where do I want to go and how much am I willing to spend?” This will inevitably determine how much money you need to save as a month in Europe is a lot more expensive than a month in Southeast Asia.

2.    Cut back on expenses. Cut costs as much as possible. Spend less on groceries, even $10 a week over 6 months adds up. Look into eating out less and making your meals at home, as well as cutting back on unnecessary expenses like shopping. If you’re living at home right now, this is your biggest blessing (believe me), especially if you’re not paying rent. Use this opportunity to save as much money as possible because once you move out, saving up becomes 10 times harder. It helps to think of saving for your trip as another bill and try and put away a certain percentage of your pay every time, anywhere from 10-50% and the closer your trip, the higher the percentage.

3.   Prioritize your trip. Do you really need a coffee a day? Can you reduce your phone or grocery bill? Work out what’s important to you - going out for dinner every other night or saving for your trip? If you really want to travel, you need to keep this goal in mind when you’re tempted to spend. Think of alternatives for the things you love. For example, having friends over instead of going out dinner or doing something cheap and outdoorsy together. Even if it’s not as fun as dinner, remember that it’s only temporary and you’ll have fun on your trip.

4. Travel cheaply. I know this doesn’t really work for everyone as some people prefer hotels to hostels, but this is one of the biggest ways to cut back on daily expenses once you get to your destination. Accommodation and travel within the country eats your money more than anything else. Whenever I can, I catch the bus or the train and I usually stay in hostels or with family or friends. Do you have a family member you can stay with at your destination? Chances are that you do! I’ve stayed with family members or friends on almost all my trips, and I even stayed with my mum’s primary school best friend once. If you don’t know anyone, hostels are your best bet, but make sure you read the reviews, and stay in all female dorms or private rooms for safety. Air BnB is also a great option, especially if the place you rent has a kitchen as this saves you having to eat out all the time. Air BnB is usually more expensive than a hostel but cheaper than a hotel and you can usually find a place to stay in areas that might otherwise be too expensive for a budget traveller.

There’s a myriad of websites and blogs out there to help plan your trip, so make sure you do your research. Below are some of my favourites:

Sky Scanner: Sky Scanner helps you to see all the available flights for where you want to go, and even what day of the week is cheaper to fly. Start looking as soon as you’ve decided where you’re going and when as this website is especially helpful if you’re flexible and you plan ahead.

Rome2Rio: Will show you how to get from one destination to the next via car, plane, bus or train as well as much how it’ll cost you. Similar to Sky Scanner but using all modes of transport.

Airbnb: Rent someone’s house or apartment for your trip! Depending on the location, it can be cheaper than a hotel and will most likely be cleaner then a hostel (but pricier). The place will also be private and will come with all the facilities of a house so you can save money by cooking some of your meals, which you normally can’t do at other places.

Hostelworld: See the prices, reviews and facilities of hostels and keep and eye out for deals.