by Sidney Taiko Sheehan
I am a woman of these peculiar women. The women of my family are cooking, always cooking,
reanimating dead meat and talking about how to marry off their daughters in a lost dialect. They
are hungry, this is about hunger. Us daughters need to be united with men who look good in
suits and know their way around a thick billfold. Us daughters need to meet them before the
wrinkles come and the alarm clock starts yelling, “Your womb is either retired or full of Downs
Syndrome!” Us daughters need to find them – feed them – but keep them hungry still. Do you
love him, Mother wants to know. Does he love you? What she means is, who will take care of you
when I’m gone? Who will take care of you at all? She says men are necessary pain.
And there is the pain-like look. There is the pain itself. Our legacy, our heirloom ache. Maybe
in me and the air around me, in the space I occupy, hurt travels. Hurt says I can’t. Hurt says
we’re doomed to break. There was Mother saying I can’t I can’t. What she means is: she left
my father, pretended she never married a white man, gave me a French name. Her mother, long
dead, can’t. The sisters too. My aunt who is always tripping and falling into her husband’s
fist. The other aunt who believes any weather is an excuse for drinking. I want to tell them it’s
different for me. I want to remind them there is love in the world. Now what? These women,
they say I’ll only ever be ripped apart and delivered everywhere, there’s no avoiding it. Better to
do it with a man’s brief love – and then the children to get lost in and cooking, always cooking.
I try to tell them they’re from a different place with beliefs older than sorcery – say, every ill-
built role of sex is changing. But the words don’t translate right. Role, for example. They try to
tell me all things are gone, except to struggle. But they’re speaking shima kutuba, which the app
on my phone doesn’t even recognize as a language.