This is not how it begins but how you understand it. I walk many kilometers and find myself to be the same— the same moon hovering over the same, bleached sky, and when the officer calls me it is a name I do not recognize, a self I do not recognize. We are asked to kneel, or stand still, depending on which land we embroider our feet with— this one is copious with black blood or so I am told. Someone calls me by the skin I did not know I had and to this I think—language, there must be a language that contains us all that contains all of this. How to disassemble the sorrow of beginnings, how to let go, and not, how to crouch beneath other bodies how to stop breathing, how not to. Our fathers are not elders here; they are long-bearded men shoving taxi cabs and sprawled in small valet parking lots— at their sight, my body dims its light (a desiccated grape) and murmur, Igziabher Yistilign— our pride, raw-purple again. We begin like this: all of us walking in solitude walking a desert earth and unforgiving bodies. We cross lines we dare not speak of; we learn and unlearn things quickly, or intentionally slow (because, that, we can control) and give ourselves new names because these selves must be new to forget the old blue. But, sometimes, we also begin like this: on a cold, cold night memorizing escape routes kissing the foreheads of small children hiding accat in our pockets, a rosary for safekeeping. Or, married off to men thirty years our elders big house, big job, big, striking hands. Or, thinking of the mouths to feed. At times we begin in silence; water making its way into our bodies— rain, or tears, or black and red seas until we are ripe with longing.
imagine your heart is just a ball you learned to dribble up and down the length of your driveway back home. slow down control it. plant your feet in the soft blue of your mat and release it is hard but slowly you are unlearning the shallow pant of your childhood. extend your body—do not reach for someone but something fixed and fleshless and certain— fold flatten then lift your head like a cobra sure of the sun waiting and ready to caress the chill from its scales. inhale—try not to remember how desperate you’ve been for touch—yes ignore it—that hitch of your heart you got from mornings you woke to find momma hysterical or gone. try to give up the certainty she’d never return recall only the return and not its coldness. imagine her arms wide to receive you imagine you are not a thing that needs escaping. it is hard and though at times you are sure you will always be the abandoned girl trying to abandon herself push up arch deep into your back exhale and remember— when it is too late to pray the end of the flood we pray instead to survive it.