Prayer for the meat-clung bone
God, when you raise the dead,
raise him last. Let him rot
a little longer than the others.
Let him panic as his memory
staggers towards the youngest of us.
Gag his grave with the milk-sour
stench of girls, the hot and
damp heat of small mouths
fervent for a mother who sees
a knife and thinks: brother.
And before he can beg sister, sister!
And before he can plead forgive me?
Pack his mouth with flint.
Set fire to every cottony tooth,
tongue and tender meat-clung
bone. If you ran red the dirt
drawls of our girlhood,
if you gave language
to your girl slaves,
allow the pebbles
to gather in praise
of the scorpion’s
When I am felled in a film still
Over dinner, mother and I photosynthesize in the glow
of Jean Claude Van Damme’s abs and marvel at his antics.
In the verdant foliage of a Vietnamese port city, a bar
scene; our hero drunk, skin flushed amber and electric
strokes a lover to the whine of a violin. We slip
our anxious mouths behind cupped hands, feign lush
excuses for their fumbling. When she wakes panting,
we flinch, afraid she’d been felled and in our presence.
Eventually we give into silence; soft leather sofa pliant
under pressure, its cushions mossy, wet with sweat.
Years before, in the window of a hotel room, West London.
A lone sugar maple split to the root. Outside the rain still fell,
slicking the throat of every living thing as he called me
tender, a tease, later tongued fruit from my palm; lemon
wedges, green olives, tomatoes wet on the vine. No blanketed
sigh came warbling from a violin when he finished. No iridescent
stills of the moon’s soft rising. Only my face, flinched
in the mirror, dark meat plump as a poisonberry.
a sonnet short a dollar
my therapist tells me the American dream
only works if you get off your ass and make it.
in Somalia, work in old age is penance for failed crops,
bad parenting. I’d never seen a punishment so stunning
as a disability check for a heart condition. the condition: a country
where the skid mark stink of being poor never leaves me
a well father. instead, a father who calls on Saturday mornings whistling
lady, i miss you through ten missing teeth. we laugh, time moves backwards,
bare-assed in this country. a new jacket for the winter? new? haha! the joke
is our own terrible inheritance: twenty years. and we’ve got as many dollars
in our bank account as our two rotten molars. jokes on us pops, we money
but we poor everywhere we go.
Photograph of Sadia Hassan by Amal Jama.