Two Poems by Safia Elhillo


Image by Robert Young. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.


saf my mother who named me calls me in & into tenderness
smooth bead of sound in the mouth the shortening we safaa
(purity)  & safia  (pure)  share

i walk through the airport & walk through the world thinking everyone
(soft)  (stop)  (sob)  is calling to me   thinking everyone knows
my small intimate names  (scarf)   (scoff)   & i belong by accident
i look up   every time

Fajr, New York City

the philosopher turns in his sleep  dark hair a cursive
on the pillowcase & i want     to unlatch my body
from its own sinking & love him back

later he tells me he loves my sadness    & instead
of saying   that’s not me i’m here somewhere behind it
i pretend to be asleep

his particular smell of pomegranates & smoke
unlatches from his body to visit me at night
years later in a city we do not share

his city burns on the news & i mean to call him
but he has since sealed up the wound belonging
to my name  i miss him when i sit in airplanes
i miss him when an orange spark  latches itself
to a coal    i sit inside my small & unsaved
life   & his haunting guards me carefully
while i float in & out of sleep

These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #32. Get your copy here, or read it in digital form here.

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children, forthcoming in 2017 from University of Nebraska Press.