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.

Safia Jama reads “Underpainting”

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.

Safia Jama reads “Tenth Birthday”

 

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.

 

Appears In