Safia Elhillo


i believe that sometimes              we do not die

i will not believe that to be housed in a body
that is black       is to be dressed always
in black for the funeral                 we live forever

our mouths open & a song falls out           thick
with a saxophone’s syrup               & all our dead
in the ground make this land ours             & all
our missing fathers make us everything’s child

today i did not dress for a funeral       today i wear
the yellow dress        & laugh with all my teeth
today my lost ones are not lost to me     they live
in the wind that gathers my skirt

today this is my country        today i say their names
& the all holes left behind            shaped like blackgirls
& blackboys        are lit up by hundreds of faraway stars

today i woke up & was not dead         & tomorrow
might be different but tomorrow       does not yet exist
so i hold my mother’s hand & kiss          the brown valley
between each knuckle        my brother opens his mouth
to laugh & the light pours in          through the gap in his teeth
& no one will ever again say my eyes are too serious

i press my body to a man that i find beautiful      & sway
to a song that knows us                i live forever
with my feet in my grandmother’s lap
&                                                        i live forever by the water
with the sun spilled over me       remember me this way
& when they come for me            play the song i love
into the space i leave behind

Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC. A Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, she received an M.F.A. in poetry from the New School. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee and joint winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Her work appears in several publications and in the anthologies “The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop” and “Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart."