Safia Elhillo, from Home Is Not a Country; “Boys”
my loneliness grows teeth
i feel them chewing at my stomach
Home Is Not a Country, ‘42: Alone’ by Safia Elhillo
hi! first of all, thank you for doing all that you do!
do you have any pieces on communities?
hi anon & thank you for reading my blog! your support means a lot. here are some poems about communities for you--many of them are about the diasporic experience since i find that they speak very beautifully about belonging & displacement from one’s community.
Wang Ping, “Things We Carry on the Sea“ | And we carry our mother tongues / 爱(ai)，حب (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love / 平安 (ping’an), سلام ( salaam), shalom, paz, peace / 希望 (xi’wang), أمل (’amal), hofenung, esperanza, hope, hope, hope
Joy Harjo, “Remember” | Remember you are this universe and this / universe is you. / Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Joy Harjo, “Perhaps the World Ends Here“ | Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Muriel Rukeyser, “Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars)” | We would try to imagine them, try to find each other, / To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile / Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other, / Ourselves with ourselves.
Yehuda Amichai, “In the Middle of This Century” | Lovely is the world rising early to evil, / Lovely is the world falling asleep to sin and pity, / In the mingling of ourselves, you and I, / Lovely is the world.
Safia Elhillo, “Ode to Sudanese-Americans” | i crowd smoky bars alongside ladin / & shadin & majid & linda & nedal / atheel & amir & elkhair & mo & mohammed & mo
“i bleed & can’t stop bleeding / i speak & my mouth is my biggest wound”
- The January Children, 'application for the position of abdelhalim hafez's girl' by Safia Ehillo
When Safia Elhillo said "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?" and when Hannah Green said "Mother, it is lonely to be inside a body that is such a violent thing. How have you done it for all of these years?"
April 2, 2021: For My Friends, in Reply to a Question, Safia Elhillo
For My Friends, in Reply to a Question
after David Ignatow
I’m okay. And, of course, I’m not,
but I go through the motions. I wake up
to the alarm’s howl, even when the word
in my body is no. I dress in livid colors.
I blacken the hairs of each eyebrow. I bake
& braise & pickle. I write & read & lose
hours to the blur of the television. I sit
for hours in the bath, my skin puckering.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go home again.
I don’t know who I’ve seen for the last time.
The Arabic comes back to me in streaks
of paint, verb forms & vocabularies
I may never again have occasion to use.
My days smudge into one another & it’s not
that I am afraid. It’s as if I am watching it
all happen below, & I am somewhere above
the room, wondering if the rice is burning.
I am somewhere above the room, watching
my new aches, watching the news as if
I am reading it in a novel. I look up
the names of people I knew in childhood,
learn their new & angular faces, their
faraway lives. My grandfather pixelates
into a smile & I work my creaking muscles
to replicate it, I do not ask if we will ever
meet again, I do not ask him to read to me,
or for anything that will make me long.
I dull it with sugar & oil, with cooking shows,
with sleep. I sleep twelve hours each night
& in my dreams I am fleeing a war, in my dreams
I am touching the faces of my friends, we are
each one of us touching, & even in the dream
we are afraid.
2020: The Conditional, Ada Limón
2019: Dorothy Wordsworth, Jennifer Chang
2018: A Small Needful Fact, Ross Gay
2017: What We Need, David Budbill
2016: Husky Boys’ Dickies, Jill McDonough
2015: Why Some Girls Love Horses, Paisley Rekdal
2014: The Fox, Faith Shearin
2013: You Can’t Have It All, Barbara Ras
2012: Road Trip, Kurt Brown
2011: Onset, Kim Addonizio
2010: February, Margaret Atwood
2009: Domestic, Carl Phillips
2008: A Birthday, W.S. Merwin
2007: Words for Love, Ted Berrigan
2006: At the Trial of Hamlet, Chicago, 1994, Sherman Alexie
2005: The Waking, Theodore Roethke
i am so tired. i just want to go home. i just want. i am so full of wanting.
History's deadliest king: Leopold II of Belgium - Lesson by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, directed by Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
Safia Elhillo, from Home Is Not a Country; “Haitham”
self-portrait with yellow dress
by Safia Elhillo
i believe that sometimes we do not die
i will not believe that to be housed in a body
that is black is to be dressed always
in black for the funeral we live forever
our mouths open & a song falls out thick
with a saxophone’s syrup & all our dead
in the ground make this land ours & all
our missing fathers make us everything’s child
today i did not dress for a funeral today i wear
the yellow dress & laugh with all my teeth
today my lost ones are not lost to me they live
in the wind that gathers my skirt
today this is my country today i say their names
& the all holes left behind shaped like blackgirls
& blackboys are lit up by hundreds of faraway stars
today i woke up & was not dead & tomorrow
might be different but tomorrow does not yet exist
so i hold my mother’s hand & kiss the brown valley
between each knuckle my brother opens his mouth
to laugh & the light pours in through the gap in his teeth
& no one will ever again say my eyes are too serious
i press my body to a man that i find beautiful & sway
to a song that knows us i live forever
with my feet in my grandmother’s lap
& i live forever by the water
with the sun spilled over me remember me this way
& when they come for me play the song i love
into the space i leave behind
i bleed & can't stop bleeding / i speak & my mouth is my biggest wound
The January Children, ‘application for the position of abdelhalim hafez’s girl’ by Safia Elhillo
Vocabulary by Safia Elhillo
- PROOF THAT WORDS ARE EMPTY/MAGICAL
Safia Elhillo, “Ode to Swearing"
Crys my beloved! Out of all your amazing soul-crushing edits, what are some of your favorite quotes from them?? :D
I think it would be safia elhillo, from home is not a country; “the airport”? I really love it 🥺.
i imagine her this other girl bright & alive
& i ache to have been born her instead.
verily the ghosts will
not leave her alone verily when asked how
she got her name if telling the truth she
will say [a woman died & everything
wants a home]
from asmarani makes prayer by Safia Elhillo
Safia Elhillo, from Home Is Not a Country; “The Stranger”