City of Bones

By | 1 November 2019

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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