1. halima from across the road was left with a bloody mouth when the white boys with fists and clenched jaws came.
2. ahmed wasn’t so lucky. he was found under the bridge, two knife wounds for company. his mother still cradles his photo.
3. khadija came home with red eyes, a hijab with holes that cannot be filled and a screeching mouth.
4. they found aunty mako’s shopping bags near the river. three miles of blue later and there she was: floating, dark as night, face under. we don’t say her name in the house anymore.
you were only crawling feet when you left.
your mother is a silent mouth, half-smiles and too much distance. she tells you about the blue-eyed woman at the airport who was all it must be sad leaving your homeland behind but aren’t you so glad you got out of there? aren’t you so glad to begin afresh? silly woman. your mother carries home in the space under the tongue, couldn’t she see? your mother is a mouth full of longing, a mouth full of missing. home is never too far.
your grandmother smells of a clutched homeliness, frail legs in a land that threatens to break her back every single day.
and you? you are a lifetime of searching. you grab and grab and grab but everything you try to hold on to runs with feet made out of urgency.
By Leyla Ahmed