For Barkin Ladi
In war, people leave their burdens behind
and I too have tried to leave my language
but it wouldn’t wash off my tongue.
All my life I’ve been running.
My body knows violence and its provenance:
Barkin Ladi, a city buried in its ruins.
Here, I lost an arm. Some nights it tugs at me
in a dream. Other nights, I’m in a pool of sweat,
afraid that the burning city may find me.
In this dream, I hear the small voice of my father
talking in his language of loss. He says
“boy, your body is a city of bones
and though it’s not set to run
you will never own it.”
My father is a mound of ash.
I see the fire in his eyes
and I begin to run
I’m running from my father
who is running from the city
that owns him.
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