شُكُوكِي فِي حَبَنًا
فِي الصَّبَاحِ، أُحِبُّكَ لَكِنْ
فِي المَسَاءِ، لَا أَفْهَمْنا.
أَذْهَبُ إِلَى قَلْبِكَ دَائِمًا،
لِمَاذَا أَنَا لَا أَسْعَدُ الآنَ؟
فِي المَسَاءِ، أشتهركَ لَكِنْ
فِي الصَّبَاحِ، لَا أَثِقُ بِنَا.
أُسَافِرُ إِلَى غُرْفَتِكَ دَائِمًا،
لِمَاذَا أَنَا مَعَ القَلَقِ الآن؟
Translation: My Doubts of Our Love
In the morning, I love you but
in the evening, I don’t understand us.
I go to your heart always,
so why am I not happy now?
In the evening, I desire you but
in the morning, I don’t trust us.
I travel to your room always,
so why am I with worry now?
I was only five when I first
saw my father spit foreign words.
Like freckles on a face,
My father’s tongue splatters adopted words.
Like a chameleon, it often changes colours,
He worships Allah in pure Arabic
but swings some Arabic slang in between salaahs
” Bardu, Inti Kuweysah yaa Caishah” he says.
In the Streets of Nairobi,
My dad utters strange phrases like
”Asante Sana.” then kisses my forehead
”Mungo Aukubariki, Mimi Nakupenda Sana binti”
The words fertilize my brain,
I try to see the world through his mouth
His teeth, lined up countries, his gum, the vast sky
and his tongue, mother earth.
I absorb the words and master the foreign expressions.
He switches back to Somali
It is my mother’s tongue, he says ”My mouth mastered it first and the words never betray my teeth.”
Then he teaches me ”Far kaligeed fool ma dhaqdo.” ”A finger by itself, can never wash the whole face.”
Just like a single tongue doesn’t cover the whole mouth.
”Dear daughter,” he says ”Let your tongue swing in foreign lands for words are floating in the air.”
But remember ”To never walk as though the paving stones are your property, for we’ll all go back to rest beneath them.”
– Aisha Afrah
A byro in one pocket, empty pennies in another,
I’m standing on a platform; there’s a teacher, there’s a lover,
There’s a train coming towards us,
Lady, lady! Ticket please!
Where are my pockets? I wear a skirt.
It shows bare toes, it shows red knees.
This platform is cold, and white as snow,
I wonder where that train goes.
I know I have somewhere to go, somewhere to be…
The sky is purple, the clouds are green.
No ticket, sorry.
I stand unseen.
The man writes a number down the length of my arm,
The train starts to move, there’s a bell – an alarm.
I look down; off my arm the numbers are falling,
I open my eyes,
I wake up to morning.
Did you dream? My mother is calling.
TRIGGER WARNING: This is a poem I wrote for a girl called Becky Watts who went to my school and who was murdered by her own step brother.
sometimes it is as if I am back there
your smile plastered on every bus stop
and us, young and smoking weed on the patch of grass between school and the council estate
talking about the way you used to
shout at the teachers and make faces
through the squares of glass in the
doors of our classrooms
on the news they say you were a good kid
we know that this in many ways is a lie but
we know your heart was true
and we know we’ll cry about you
in two years time when we’re drunk at a party and the disc catches
and the silence lingers just long enough
that you are there
squashed between the empty vodka bottles
looped through the ring pulls of our teenage ciders
and one of us will cry and we will all know why
it will ripple through us this sadness that punctuates our lives
that in the long run only grips us
the way cows have tags clipped through their ears
it eclipses us
and we are pulled kicking and screaming into a grief we can never fully know
because we know
we didn’t really know
we know this when the police come
we know this when the journalists come with fake police badges
we know this when we carry flowers round to your place
and there are men with cameras shouting
“how did you know her?”
and we know this when we spend a day walking bus stop to bus stop
folding photos of your face into our school bags
and leaving two strips of duct tape
on the glass
in your place
A reflective poem on the realities of walking around the house with outdoor shoes
Today I mopped the floor
And I had an epiphany
All this muck and grime
Comes from the city
All the petrol, vom and spit
All the cappuccinos spilt
Dog poo, cat wee, human tears
All line the soles of my slippers.
I think I loved you first, in the way Only women with talons for nails can.
I loved you with the dark orange of midnight
And the soft purple of first light, and in my first-ness I could colour myself a little bit of both.
I could draw up fangs and then balm in the same breath, And churn the seas, and drink up the foamy poison
And then wait for it to gleam it off my skin,
Turn twenty times like a lizard in the garden wall
If it means,
I could spit fire.
I will lie waiting, eating from the skeleton of my own memory, Imagining you,
When you finally arrive,
with your bubbles frozen and darkened And held fast, but held forever,
your orange heart twisted and turning into lava, an artist whose paintbrush rests
In a gun holster.
Limb first, eyes next, a face begging forgiveness, begging for whatever I could give next, My breasts, my eyes, my ears, my time,
They come in pairs, so
Which half of my whole will be stripped today?
I have cloth in my backyard I never washed the blood off That strip from last month.
I hold it up against the setting sun and watch them match, And I light an edge, like an incense,
Collect the ash to draw over That eye you couldn’t take.
My skin is the night and I am smiling.
What desperation, what belief that
They must be scissored like stray tissue And then tied up into tiny bows
With which to collect flowers.
What desperation must make
Women grow talons.
-Stuti Pachisia, MA Comparative Literature