by Safia Elhillo


after Danez Smith, with a line by Ol’ Dirty Bastard


if you read this in red maybe i didn’t

survive     every day i go missing    one

eyelash at a time     or sometimes               all

at once               & in the heaven for

blackgirls gone away     we walk in

& out of rivers & wear    our good silks

our good brown velvet bodies    dripping

with sunlight     we sprout leaves & no one

decides for us to cut or keep them   we

bear fruit & self-sustain               we tread water we

pluck the moon for our hair & another grows

in its place       we are sistered or unsistered

but never again to a dead thing     somewhere

a rope turns & turns & our feet never       touch

the ground       somewhere a song playes

& plays & names us with each touch of a needle to our

round black surfaces

i’m hanging out               /partying/with girls/that never die


Sudanese by way of Washington, D.C., Safia Elhillo is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize, and winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator.

From the new anthology: Women of Resistance: Poems For A New Feminism, Edited by Danielle Barnhart & Iris Mahan

“Here we have 49 women and men and queers and inter-sexuals throwing their everything at this moment in time when the patriarch is really shaking, and it looks like he’s about to tumble down. We’ve got this shiny new book. People are scared that nothing will be left after he falls except a bunch of poems. Pick up this glowing book as you’re crawling through the rubble, and poem by poem and page by page you’ll begin to know that you’ll be okay. You’re in there, and so are your friends. You won’t starve, you’re safe and strong thanks to all these proud, funny, violent, trembling words. Start memorizing. Cause the future is here and this stuff is true.” —Eileen Myles

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