Always our last stop
baba tapping one after the other like tambours
as if suddenly a door would creak open,
And we’d be ushered into the green striped belly of a tiger,
savoring flesh and roasted seeds
that sweetened sweat.
how do you know which to choose?
once we're home he tells me
Unraveling his turban
in that way that doesn’t leave creases,
‘It chooses you.’
before stabbing the rind.
My older brother got all the attention
with mama’s hazel eyes and straight hair.
She still keeps a photo of when he wore it long,
fourteen in his white sox uniform
hair like a waterfall framing his face,
people thought he was Indian.
That was before we moved to Khartoum
there, he shaved it off and changed forever.
Mama’s eye wouldn’t stop twitching
the night my sister went camping
with her girl scout troop.
So she followed her gut
and brought my sister home,
by the troop leader
who told her she'd look perfect.
I was only seven,
bored as mama argued
with the airline staff
swore on graves they shrugged
and shook their heads at.
I blinked one eye at a time
and pretended I could
make them fly to those graves.
I fall asleep to conversations in a language
I must remember
I rise, dress like a prize donkey
carry mama’s gifts and medicine
to neighbors who sang our names,
spun our sorrows into clouds.
I found no paradise
in the faces of the beggars
who accepted alms and prayed
for you at the mosque
until I disappeared.
I spent weeks in that apartment
windows sealed off
sleeping with your scent
until i couldn't.
I woke up in a fisherman’s net
born again not from love but duty.
I break salt on the rocks by the gates,
hear your laughter in that garden
oblivious of bars.
K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent, his work has appeared in Baphash Literary & Arts Quarterly, New Contrast, Algebra of Owls, NILVX, Illya's Honey, Ink in Thirds, Elsewhere Literary Journal, Peeking Cat Magazine,The Ofi Press,Poetic Diversity, Chanterelle’s Notebook, and Poetry Pages: A Collection of Voices from Around the World Volume IV. He is the editor of "21," a Poetry Magazine. He currently resides in Granada, Spain. More at http://k-eltinae.com/.
This originally appeared on September 24, 2017