46: Origin Stories

46: Origin Stories

46: Origin Stories

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Origin Stories

by Safia Elhillo


i was made out of clay        out of time        the quran says we began
as a single clot of blood      & i keep digging the wound it's warm inside
some things you lose to mark the time        yes men of course but also
some hair        handful of teeth        is what i am told but all i lost
is a language      but i keep quiet & no one can tell


my grandmother tells me to shred dill
by hand     she means to teach me patience            she calls it length of mind


i hear prayer called by a voice thick with something hurting
like a croak but i do not mean that it is ugly
it is dawn in khartoum & i am two days arrived        everyone kisses
my cheeks & asks      if i am returned or visiting & i think
they mean to be kind         i sleep through gatherings & feel
there is too much blood in my body         & that my name is my
name is my name is my name is


in khartoum's bright yellow morning my grandfather brings me
the season's first mangoes         & tells me it is time to come home
they are firm & green but on the inside all sunlight         i use my hands
& spill the juice all down my front     i fill my mouth & i do not answer  

“Origin Stories", from THE JANUARY CHILDREN by Safia Elhillo. Copyright © 2017 by Safia Elhillo. Used by permission of University of Nebraska Press.