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2 POEMS — Safia Elhillo

on November 15 | in Poetry | by | with No Comments

first adornment
it’s ramadan i’m nine years old drinking juice
of crushed & strained hibiscus             it darkens
my lips a bitten red              & i think i look
i look like my biglegged aunts    their heavy hair burnt
straight & draped with bright & beaded scarves
their men lost or upstairs sleeping or gone
to america to look for work       gone to england
to saudi arabia to the emirates to look for work
i watch them pick through grains of rice for
stones & stew meat in hissing pots       i watch
them cake the soles of their feet with henna
dye the stonecolored roots of their hair with
henna paint fat flowers on their palms &
ankles with henna & lie on daybeds with arms &
legs aloft       waiting for it all to dry       i grow
older & watch my own hips swell       i paint
dark shapes along my arms       around my ankles
& wait for the stain to set
an inheritance
did our mothers invent loneliness or did it make them our mothers were we
fathered by silence or just looking to explain away this quiet is it wasteful to
pray for our brothers in a language they never learned whose daughters are we
if we grow old before our mothers or for their sakes they called our
grandfathers the january children lined up by the colonizer & assigned birth
years by height there is no answer we come from men who do not know when
they were born & women shown to them in photographs whose children left
the country & tried for romance & had daughters full of all the wrong language
nn, headshot, safia, elhilo-300x300Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC. A Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly: a journal of black expression, she received an MFA in poetry at the New School. Safia has been nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize, and is co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Her work appears in several journals and in the anthologies “The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop” and “Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart.”

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