Remembering this: the sadness of a straight line, or lines that mean things against my body. What I draw in my abdomen, what I learn to be the thing that separates us. The love in a circumference, holding your face in my palms when I know it is the last time I will see you, and your face suddenly becoming a map of my worlds. Many years later, I see you split: your eyes on a girl with sun kissed hair, your nose hissing in despair, the mouth on another face, the back installed on a man with fearless gaunt. I see you everywhere. And remember this: how geography can be used against you, the body you once knew, the face that was your map, a world no more. This is where things come to die, or so you were told. This is also where things come to bloom, sporadically so. This is where you will find yourself become another one. This is where you hide, or you become, depending on your will to live. This is where your dreams meet each other, and somehow collide, all on the same face. This is where, suddenly, you are no one. This is where you do not belong, and to do, you slide into someone else’s face. This, you were not told, but this, you assume to be dangerous. This is where you walk with caution: three steps forward, look to the sides. This is where you always pray, but forget what you’re praying for. This is where your mouth opens and nothing comes out. This is where you hide your children and teach them not to cry. This is where you will cry for years. This is where you learn the names of different lands, their borders marked against your body as if they all had faces. This, you know: what you must do to be, to exist, to be seen without the scars that blossom on your sides, on your wrists, on your thighs, and names that call you different things each time: alien, immigrant, refugee, and now, names you do not recognize. This is where I leave you: our faces maps no more, but lands for others to inhabit – we must be straight lines too, our bodies the borders to new fruits.
~ Mahtem Shiferraw
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Her work has been published in various literary journals. Her poetry collection, ‘FUCHSIA’, won the Sillerman Prize for African Poets.