Five Poems

By K. Eltinaé

fulani blues

I have a hard time telling mother
she should get out and exercise
so we talk about people she admires for hours.

Fulan al fulani's son married a girl
he saw on his uncle's wedding dvd.
Took them three weeks to ask about the family,
will you come for the wedding?

Fulan al fulani's son has a son now,
named after his late father
too much sugar in our blood, the heat, mosquitos
take the best ones early
What keeps you there... when here is better?

She calls me after work excited
has met a girl with dimples
ready to start a family with a modest man
willing to marry a stranger
who barely lives with himself.

 

dowry

They do no milieu justice
the rapturous things we learn to be true

hanging like jasmine
on a summer night.

Resentful walls claim weight
of legacies we assume not because

time unearthed them but from the shame we fear
the gossip of borders.

We wait too long for dowries,
for the sweat of strangers,

to remember our own perfume.

 

unconditional

I choose the seat closest to the door
in case someone steps off
I can follow out and start a new life with.

Instead I meet couples who are travelling
who speak about ‘home’ and getting ‘back’
to places I cross off the map.

What if I told her my first kiss was on a staircase
at school between classes, that I lost my balance
and that each time love has felt that way?

What if I told them I still walk around
with imaginary djinns on my shoulders

that weigh like shame from childhood
that I bow my head to and offer things
I have never had without asking?

What if I dream of being met by a stranger
who sees me in the way I cannot.

 

suitor
After I.A

You sent her back
because she ate like fire and bore no children.

Because the world you were raised in
taught you broken things were best returned.

Do you think about how she is still moving through life
like a paperweight, medicated for the hunger of longing

thirsty for a ‘love that came after’
you could never provide?

She seldom talks about it.
Just carries on loving

in her broken way
unfinished things,

because after three divorces
people think you are the problem.

Not the society
that asks a girl to find love
where it can't exist.

 

madame

I will always remember you in a nightgown
moving in and out of marriages like an ebony ghost.

My family lay out pictures from different years
to explain evolution and destruction all at once.

I am suddenly at the funeral of your first husband
who died in his early twenties of an overdose

and left you with a fortune you put to good use
traveling the length of Europe with that mouth

a nest of pearls that made men drunk
the second disappeared so you started writing blank checks

out of grief in his name until they caught you at the airport
so when you married the lawyer who later left you everything

you were ready to love the Arab banker
who consoled you at his funeral

who bought the matching suitcases you left at a friends'
before his car went over a cliff almost a year later.

In your cast, you signed for everything with your left hand
later you moved back to Khartoum

into a house bigger than your loneliness
spent your last days a welcome guest at funerals

a smiling moon
that spun men into dust.

K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent. His work has appeared in World Literature TodayThe African American Review and About Place Journal, among others.