after Jenny Xie

Concentric ripple of the canals, little apartment 
at the center point. All June I’ve been in Amsterdam, 
vowels softening to liquid in my mouth. Long walks 
over the cobblestones in the warmest part 
of the afternoon, narrow houses along the water arranged 
like crooked teeth. My steps lead me over a ballet 
of bridges, precarious choreography of bicycles 
and other bodies, the rare car vulgar and roaring 
along the too-small street. I count the faces around 
that could be my faces, features and shades 
from a much older world than this. City I may never 
see again, and still my old need to belong. To daughter
the possibly Sudanese man at the Chipsy King, 
his kind assurance that the dish contains no pork. 
My nails soften and split in the cool dry air. An ashen 
gray patch on my calf and I am ashamed for hours after, 
wetting a finger with saliva to correct it.

Copyright © 2023 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.