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.