For a Boy Answering the Name of Our Home as the Replica of His Pain.
i called this home / a seed that is birthed where ants fly and dance / i painted my eye with a mirror / to see the fuel of this hell / and any child in my home / became the portrait of an unknown water / you whispered / and cried into my ears. / but, i know this story / is another beast. / colours shine again / with the cries of the sun / and another day is buried / in the womb of every night. i wasn’t born to stay / with my feet / dancing on this ember / in this boring home / where my name is eaten/ by the name of death. / do you think a squirrel can die / when a farmer sing a bird? what my soul sees / doesn’t exist in this world / and dosn’t even have a name to be called / or a face and the theory of drought. / i came to this home / with the autumn breeze / & wind of deserts / that tastes sweetly bitter with lies / blood / tears / and any thing i shall call pain. / i entered this home / wearing a pale cloud / and rain on the soil that runs away / from the touch of my skin.
Mubarak Said TPC XII is the 3rd runner-up of the poetry category of the 2022 Bill Ward Prize for Emerging Writers. His works are forthcoming and published in many literary magazines national and international as imspired magazine, World Voices Magazine, Icefloe Press, Literary Yard, Beatnik Cowboy, Piker Press Magazine, Teen Literary Journal, ILA magazine, Icreatives review, The Yellow House Magazine, Pine Cone Review, Synchronized Chaos, Susa Africa, Madswirl Magazine, Applied Worldwide, Opinion Nigeria, Today Post, Daily Trust, Daily Companion and elsewhere.
You double tap hold your Airpods. Noise canceling activated. You have your sunglasses on.
You are indoors, in a book shop, somewhere in St. Paul, Minnesota. You are waiting for your turn to read. All these people are here to watch you read. Not just you, though. It’s never just you.
Your mentor is on stage reading an essay. He is animated. He can spit like a muhfucka.
You realize what essay he’s reading, and how traumatic it is for you to listen to. It reminds you of the Summer of Floyd, when everything burned around you. When you were afraid of racists from Wisconsin, who drove through these streets, laying cans of gas in alleyways. Shooting up Black homes. Coming back later that night to set them on fire.
You ask yourself how on God’s green earth you ended up in a place as racist as America.
You realize you never had a choice. Much like being a writer, you never had a choice.
Your family left Africa for this shit.
On your first night in America, it was a drive-by on your block in Atlanta.
You’ve always told that story and repeated that catchphrase: we left Africa for this shit?
You’re in the thick of it now. That essay is starting to crescendo. You can see the impact it’s having on your mentor. He is getting more animated in his delivery.
Damn, that nigga can spit.
Also: he is feeling it. You are feeling it, too. Pacing the corners of the room, nervous. You turn on Kodak Black. Kodak raps about murder, but it calms you down. Kodak raps about the things which he was born into, which he had no choice but to survive. Kodak raps about the struggle cuz it made him a man. You know about the struggle, but this audience of white faces won’t understand.
Your mentor is done reading now. It’s almost your turn to go on stage. You instinctively start walking towards him. You meet him just outside the audience’s expectant eyes. White people are always expecting something from us, aren’t they?
You embrace your mentor, now. He is shaking. You see the tears in his eyes. Not quite tears, but more like… a swelling, of moisture, just shy, of teardrops.
You hug him now. You stand there hugging. It is a shared struggle, these Black male bodies, in this country built on the understanding that all your bodies are worth is the price of strange fruit.
Poplar trees, nigga. Emasculation. Manhood stuffed inside of mouth. Tarred and feathered.
This the country where niggas like you come up missing. Whether you rap about murder like Kodak, or you stand in front of white audiences like a poet professor. You could come up missing, young nigga. No matter how old you are, you will always be a boy to them.
And you know this. Not even deep down, you know this consciously.
That’s why you don’t care about their praise, about their critique, about their putdowns.
You don’t care about their fear of your manhood. About their fetishes surrounding it.
You don’t care about their cuckold fascination.
White wives, Black dick. You don’t care about it.
You only care about your words, about your honor, dignity, life.
You go on stage to spit these bars, but you don’t even care about them half the time.
You only care about this moment, this shared embrace. Two Black men, acknowledging each other’s existence. Holding each other in ways that the world is incapable of.
You only care about the now.
And now… you go on stage.
Dim the lights.
Turn off that Kodak.
Fade to Black Man.
Said Shaiye is an Autistic Somali Writer & Photographer. His debut book, Are You Borg Now? was a 2022 Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Creative Nonfiction & Memoir. He has contributed essays to the anthologies Muslim American Writers at Home, The Texas Review’s All-Poetry Issue, and We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World. He has published poetry & prose in Obsidian, Brittle Paper, Pithead Chapel, 580 Split, Entropy, Diagram, Rigorous, Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Graduate Instructor of Creative Writing, as well as a Judd International Research Fellow. He teaches writing to Autistic kids through Unrestricted Interest, as well as in the English Departments of several colleges in the Twin Cities.