For My Friends, In Reply To A Question

Safia Elhillo

I’m okay. And, of course, I’m not,
but I go through the motions. I wake up
to the alarm’s howl, even when the word
in my body is no. I dress in livid colors.
I blacken the hairs of each eyebrow. I bake
& braise & pickle. I write & read & lose
hours to the blur of the television. I sit
for hours in the bath, my skin puckering.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go home again.
I don’t know who I’ve seen for the last time.
The Arabic comes back to me in streaks
of paint, verb forms & vocabularies
I may never again have occasion to use.
My days smudge into one another & it’s not
that I am afraid. It’s as if I am watching it
all happen below, & I am somewhere above
the room, wondering if the rice is burning.
I am somewhere above the room, watching
my new aches, watching the news as if
I am reading it in a novel. I look up
the names of people I knew in childhood,
learn their new & angular faces, their
faraway lives. My grandfather pixelates
into a smile & I work my creaking muscles
to replicate it. I do not ask if we will ever
meet again, I do not ask him to read to me,
or for anything that will make me long.
I dull it with sugar & oil, with cooking shows,
with sleep. I sleep twelve hours each night
& in my dreams I am fleeing a war, in my dreams
I am touching the faces of my friends, we are
each one of us touching, & even in the dream
we are afraid.

Last updated September 27, 2022