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A Dark Bird

There is no right answer to how a young girl finds a home.

Sometimes, she marvels at the swift larks

or names the crows after their shadows.

I have been a dark bird with a compass in her throat,

flock searching. I have been a young girl looking for something to love

that did not strike fire to her skin.

My body symmetries two landscapes,

two countries to which I don’t entirely belong: I have lived next to sprigs

of wheat for twenty years, and still, they drop their familiar

bushels in this poem like strangers.

I have never dunked my head in the sea of Dar es Salaam, and still,

it roils in my blood, beckoning like a mother.

I want to drink in a homeland like a horse guzzling from a spring.

I want to be the kind of bird who has a name,

who wets her hair in the sleeves of a thunderstorm.

But it is lonely to wing in two places at once.

Just ask the young girl whose body sheathes a fourteen-kilometer distance

if the buckwheat ever loved her back.


My Father’s Canada

Smoke looks no different in the white man’s house

than it does in the miombo woodlands.

I envy how the wind remains untethered,

and no one asks the light to bare its secrets.

I envy anything whole because my father

is the sound of splitting, and I am a cave.

As in, my father is halved by an ocean,

and I inhabit the hollow of no country’s name.

I am given the salt and sting of an old wound.

Violence in Mtwara looks like the same storm

wracking the treeline here and now,

in this great north, where we are unmade

depending on how stars glint our skin

and how our tongues untwine language.

My father says he was born in the jungle,

in a village where bees hive in the deciduous deep.

In the 1960s, this is what he knows about freedom:

how wind and wind and wind feel the same

yet body and body and body are unalike,

how the light manages to own everything at once

yet a boy cannot keep his tongues—

how again and again and again,

my father must learn what it means to surrender.


Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Oregon, and she is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying poetry written by second-generation immigrant authors. Her work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, The Fiddlehead, The Adroit Journal, The London Magazine, Room Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others. Alycia is the author of the chapbook Faces that Fled the Wind (forthcoming, BOAAT Press), and the winner of the 2018 Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest in poetry. She currently reads for Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

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