Edil Hassan is a Somali poet and fiction writer based in New England, where she studies English literature. Hassan is interested in how poetry can give word to stories lost by time, generation, and water.
My father first sees my mother
when the red light of afternoon heat
warms the black of her hair to saffron.
There is no ocean to salt them foreign
and love is not measured
by the distance between countries.
My mother’s dress is the swelling breath
of jilal and empty sky and I am unborn
until the gold of her earrings
drips down her neck.
Grandmother says we are four days
into a drought. Still, the heat here is heavy,
the walls of the house damp
and close to folding over. No rain and we wait
for our home to collapse.
At night I am grandmother’s tusbax.
She takes my hand and presses the joints
of my fingers until sky and red earth hum,
and I am not the light of her eye
but the body she uses to speak with God.
When the clouds do not come together
as clouds do, grandmother does not take my hand again.
I ask mother what she will do
when the rains come back.
She was born during a rainstorm
and already she is dust walking on concrete.
She does not answer. Her jaw is still clenched
from last kissing father four years ago.
There are spirits here, underneath heavy flat rocks
and at the mouth of gutters. Grandmother says
it’s because of them that the heat blooms dry
between cracks of cement and the wild flowers
on my dress fall away wilted yellow.
An ocean away and you are here too,
but you are the nick on the icebox.
The blur of my back in midday sun.
You are like the spirits. You never liked the water.
Years later, I read a list with a thousand drowned
in the Mediterranean. I search for your name
even though you are in the next room.
- Original source: Asymptote Journal