still life with the accent

Safia Elhillo


forgive me     i cannot teach you to say my name     i am from
anywhere halved by water     an english full of words i can spell
but cannot say          i came here with a handful of names     to mark up
the vagueness of my body     african          arabized          colonized
i am sifting through all my silences     practicing my pronunciations in the dark
in love with the aches that keep me company          arabic brimming
with words i can say & cannot spell          half-illiterate in my mother tongue  
half-silent     in my purchased fluency               & yes what of all the water

i learned to swim     & did not drown     i cupped my ears with my hands & heard
it roaring inside my body     thinning out my blood               i heard the woman
who died     whose name i carry     i heard the ocean swelling     daring me to cross