Away

 

Two weeks ago he opened his mouth
Whilst leaning back to let the rain
Pound eagerly into his throat
Tasting the city, he said
Last night my soul came out of its hiding place and
Settled into his right earlobe
Love sounds just like rain, he said

The day I got married
My father crawled into the crease of my eyelid
Competing with stubborn tears for recognition
He licked the inside of my eyelids
It tasted like oodkac and canjeero
If I stop blinking
He might starve

I gave myself away today

 

*This poem was first published in Public Pool

Aleppo

I fell in love
With the space
In between his thoughts
The homes I re-built
In the gap of his pause
This man I have carried
In my mind and under
My breath, humming
His calls for revolution as often as
Calls for prayer, precise
Brown eyes blackened by the sight
Of death and dying, mourning turns
To moulding body parts rotting in the sun
Wilting like flowers plucked by its root
Children dripping in crayon blood
Learning to point to where it hurts
Before the alphabet
Young girls forced to use their sex
As grenades, throwing themselves from buildings
Instead of inviting demons
Between their legs
The stench of death lingering in earlobes
And buried deep into bellybuttons
Floating in the wombs
Of young mothers
Free-falling down
Every occupied mountain
Whose people still remind the
Earth that they shall not be moved
Hoping that humanity can fall
In love with the space in between
Their dreams and limbs
By carrying their dead close to
Their knees, kneeling
At every call to prayer, wishing that
A mother’s home can be re-built
In the gap of her cries that
Firstborn, only sixteen
Whose forehead carried
The burden of his father’s sorrow
Blown to pieces like a puzzle
Will return in the form of hope
Moaning under the breath
Of a wounded city
That died long before my mother
Was born for me

 

*This poem was first published in Public Pool

Home Part 1

Home like a swarm of guntiino’s kneeling over
Cooking pots with mouthfuls of coriander
Children gathering close for canjeero flavoured kisses
The air thick with frankincense
Clouding tales of near-deaths and broken hearts
Sorrow tucked away in henna-stained fingernails

 
 
*guntiino = traditional Somali dress
*canjeero = Somali pancakes

Being Black part 1

My skin tone takes 3 sessions on the sunbed to achieve

It’s hard to perfect the darkness surrounding my elbows and

Between my legs

There are tones that have never seen sunlight

And yet

I am a black woman, not medium brown or

Medium anything

Full-lipped and stretch-marked so far that even on your tippy toes

I cannot be reached

Hurt

Blood

When it first spills

Scatters hurriedly to corners

Creases on your body

Clings to clothes

With the stench of extremities

Moulding itself around you

Splatters of human matter

Gather on cotton

Crimson brown and sour metallic

A kind of graffiti of hurt

Seven little sad photos

I have seven photos from my childhood, and once I saw myself in a video as a two-year-old in my auntie’s wedding. It was only a few second or so, a quick glimpse of littler me watched. Quite bizarre really, to watch yourself as a child when you’re a kid. In half or so of my photo collection, it is my second birthday and I am celebrated. Adorned. I bet I lapped it all up, who knew that that would be the last bomb-less year? I’m wearing a white dress (or was it ivory?) with matching ankle socks with tulle frill. Tulle. Isn’t it odd that only your childhood and the day you become a bride is the only time that tulle comes out of hiding? Both times meant to depict innocent joy, I suppose. The falling into the unknown before you get burned and everything around you is torched. It wasn’t made for this cruel world. In my current favourite photo, I am being held, comfortably, resting on my mother’s right hip, my white patent Mary Jane’s look bulky and glossy. This is how I will be described as an adult. Seven little sad photos lying on top of each other in an envelope tells a tale of being a refugee far better than I ever could.

Zeynab

A strand of bright red henna coloured hair peeks from underneath her silk scarf. Arthritic fingers bent, as if by the will of circular beads, moulded around her tusbax.

“Her name was Zeynab”, Ayeeyo blurts out unexpectedly. I look at her with my I-need-to-write-this-down face.

“Who was she?”, I ask. Softly.

I wait.

“Her name was Zeynab”, she repeats, I hear her mumble the name Zeynab a few more times, under her breath.

“She was so young, tiny in my arms”, she continues.

Still hasn’t missed a count on the prayer beads.

I decide that silence is the best move on my part.

“She was the last one, tiny, so fair”, she adds. I can tell that this will be last of it.

“What happened to her?” I find myself asking, even though I told myself I wouldn’t.

Ayeeyo blinks fast, her usual habit to avoid crying. Her eyes so hollow from the weight that she’s lost in her face, hardly any signs of eyelashes or eyebrows anymore,cataract eyes that look like an ocean surrounding a tiny brown island. She let me in far today, the dead  children that I hear her praying for each day are only a statistic at this point, a bead in a line of ninety-nine. But today I was told about Zeynab.

Zeynab. I say the name over and over in my mind. I bet her name would look pretty on me.

The Story of Us – excerpt

Somalia droops from the ceiling and clings to the window sill in the form of gaudy, mismatched drapes that belong in a home built with no double-glazing. We avoid mentioning its presence like the way you avoid eye contact with the person begging for spare change in the street, because if you look at him then you both exist and it becomes a forced relationship of give and take. So instead, my childhood is cleaned up for guests and decorated with once-upon-a-time’s that are divided into a thousand and one nights, polished for retrieval. Here we are, three war-torn generations tucked away in a Hampshire cul-de-sac, such a long way from home, we’re told. Reminded. Told. My grandmother’s clothes smells of myrrh and petroleum jelly, next to her cardamom shaah is a bowl of heated up crunchy nut cornflakes. She forgot what it’s like to not have a microwave. The summer is nearly over, so is my time here in this self-declared, self-governed nation at the end of the street.