by Sadia Hassan
There was the lorry that carried aye Fahmo and Bahsho across
baked earth, and that too was Garissa.
There were the questions that came back half chewed,
ambapo ni kipanda yako? Where are your papers?
The Swahili we swallowed in terror, the eyes yellowed from heat
darting across skin and the answers panted back slick with sweat: Sujui.
I don’t know in one language
Somali-Kenyan in the other.
Garissa, where I’d become a woman
swimming in a language too big for her body
until my body
learned to speak
There were the soldiers red-hatted—toothpicks
an extra appendage hanging wet and alert—that tried once
to woo me off a bus with red eyes and a wink.
Told me I’d been the woman
smuggling children yesterday,
and today a baby goat.
The goat’s not mine, I said,
knowing maybe no longer
nor the refugee camp which housed us
nor the dust lining my toes
nor this language
and the tongue around it
“He showed me how a drop of tequila on its tail can make a scorpion sting itself to death.”
Amy Hempel, reasons to live
We found him after Raxma left,
A moldy pile beneath the covers.
I checked for breath beneath the rubble
and found him wet with sleep and tequila.
Mama checked the walls for shit stains,
found only a film of sweat.
Baba burned frankincense to hide the smell
Of trapped heat and urine. I stood
close to the bed, protective. I stood
over the edge, unmoving.
The radio played Mohamed Mooge
Plucking strings on a tin banjo
In the song, a young man laments
Hadad laheyn maxaad siin?
If you have nothing, what are you to give?
Baba hides his watering eyes behind the smoke.
Mama busies herself with the window.
Sadia Hassan is a Somali writer living Oakland, CA. Her work has previously appeared in The Dartmouth, The Dartmouth Radical, Black Girl Dangerous, Documentum and is forthcoming in VQR and Halal if you Hear Me, an anthology of Muslim writers. She writes obsessively about the geography of loss, about displacement and belonging, wars and borders, trauma, refugee migration, and healing through ritual. She is a graduate of Dartmouth’s African/African-American Studies and Creative Writing program and is a Fine Arts Work Center Summer Fellow and the inaugural Terry Tempest Williams Fellow for Land and Justice at Mesa Refuge. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org