Slowly, I shed the mind’s black hive,
its small hairs & figures, its sense,
& slowly I lose & lose my salt,
& weep & leak, for I am warm, & breathing
among the piazzas & bakeries
& windmills while
the trafficked & drowned, one by one, lose
their breaths. The grief of chocolate
stores, the grief of dress shops in the year
of the sea. Last October,
you ran your errands in Asmara,
to & from the market, & now.
Somewhere in our city, a little boy delivers tea
in small & sturdy glasses. The customers drop small coins
into his hand & pat him on his shoulder. The tea,
it is the color of someone’s eyes,
yours or the hyena’s staring out
of a cage. The woman who is selling fruit,
she fills my bag with oranges,
for today, for tomorrow, for the next day.
(So many oranges we fool ourselves
into thinking we will live forever.)
We are in Keren again. It is raining
in Asmara, I know, because it is July
& Adey used to call crying Binyam
As you go down
you are not remembering any of this,
not the fields, not the spoons of sugar
you counted over our mother’s tea.
The kettle is whistling.
This is what it meant to be alive.
What can we do but sing of details, all of them minor,
in the year of salt & death—