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.