Two Poems by Safia Jama

Underpainting

Put on eyeliner, mascara and lipstick.
Wash it off.

Give a poetry reading to five
tropical fish.

Spray your belly with ten year-old
perfume. Take a hot shower,
a long walk.

Wear lace underwear alone.

Put on normal underwear,
plain jeans.

Go out.
Buy grapefruit.

Learn a romance language to forget
over the years.

Be the child of
the child of an alcoholic.

Cry.
Pat your face.

Go out.
Buy some grapefruit.

Write.

~

Tenth Birthday

Mom, newly motherless,
sobs into my hair.

I hold steady, trying
not to capsize.

Dad says Sweetie, it’s normal to cry
after I fake a few tears.

We fly to Cape Cod in a small plane.

That night I go for it, binging on
dinner rolls. I’m a poor sick kiddo
as I puke all night.

At sunrise I ask,
Why is it yellow?

Bile, says Aunt Janet.
You’ve nothing else left.

Mom misses the funeral
while I sleep it off.

Back home, she sighs
over the Carvel cake
in the freezer.

Cookie filling,
cone for a nose.

Birthday candles,
still in the box, unlit.

Grandma Shine
in another box.

 

by Safia Jama

 

Safia JamaSafia Jama is a Cave Canem graduate fellow, born to a Somali father and an Irish-American mother in Queens, New York. Her manuscript was a semi-finalist in the Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry.

Author photo by Jess X. Snow.

 

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