Volume 17:4, Fall 2016
When I was born, my birth ended;
when I was born, my birth ended;
When I was born my father may
or may not have called to prayer.
When I was born they may or
may not have prayed for my body.
My name may or may not be a prayer
for my body. My prayer may or may not
be a name for their fear. My father’s
fear tracked dirt on my birth. My
mother’s fear birthed dirt on my body,
so they gave it a name when my birth
ended. They call to my name louder
than prayer. They pray for my body
for fear that it is dirty. I may or may
not have been born, I may or may not
have been born, I may or may not
have been born wailing prayers.
My wailing throat has no name left.
I may or may not have been born wailing
my name. My wailing may or may not
have singed my throat. My wailing
throat may or may not know my
name. My throat may or may not be
dirty, may or may not have singed
tracks on my body. A dirty body that may
or may not have been birthed from my
name. My name is dirty when it comes
from my wailing throat. I was born
yesterday. My wailings were not prayers.
Yesterday, my birth ended. Everything
after yesterday is a prayer that they may
or may not call. A name that they may
or may not fear. My name is a scab that sits
wailing in my throat. They fear only
my body, never my name, so my name
can track dirt wherever it prays.
After Wallace Stevens
I. When you click “donate” a
cartoon dollar shrinks and
disappears in its after-glow,
I search the FAQ for who
I should thank for making
you, too, shrink and disappear.
II. My body’s sympathetic ache. What
it confused for empathy.
III. This death is thorough. It cleans
up after itself and takes out the
trash 3 days before collection.
IV. Humor’s teeth, white, aligned/
the guttural wheeze of the laugh
V. In Biology, Honors Biology,
AP Biology, Biology 151,
Biology 152, we thumb ripped
textbook pages and pick the dirt
from under our nails. We shift our
weight from one splinter of the seat
in Bascom 272 to the arm rest
commemorating David and Kelly’s
pen heart love and the fine the Bursar
We learn in fragments,
key words, and projector slide glow
of the things that guilt us later:
nerve fibers, central nervous
system, myelin, T Cells.
VI. Are those the stairs creaking
or is that your spine again?
Do you love the new leather
couch as much as you say because
of the matching cream pillows,
or because it becomes a bed
on most nights?
VII. The only family secret that is
not an heirloom.
VIII. The layer of fat that knew you
were hungry and ate itself anyway.
IX. In another part of the house, a room
with less throw pillows and unsigned
paintings hanging off kilter to hide
melted fat under, we whisper and
X. The lonely body. The wind
XI. This is sadness but this is also
I hurt for things of which
I do not know the feeling. I hurt
for people I do not know how to love.
XII. I suck cerebrospinal fluid from
the spines of women whose
names I’ve made certain you’ve
only heard in passing. I have
vowed not to kill you this way.
We singe our throats and buzz
in tandem with your call.
Soil Woman has done it again.
Gone and spilt her skin everywhere,
now she is like rain: falling.
The only way we can tell,
is by the sound.
Soil Woman has bones a different color than her teeth.
The sun darkens and yellows things this way,
and we know her insides: hollow.
Her closed-mouthed body whistles as she passes,
louder and louder, darker and more yellow
until she has no skin left.
Soil Woman does not sweep herself up.
We laugh, heartily, bellies caked in a thick layer of what we call
protection, what she calls: donation.
but never ask out loud,
what a skeleton has to spare.
Soil Woman grows new skin like a rash,
maroon and angry. Born like the babies
of her skin and the ground: still.
Now we choose silence.
Now, we know better than to scorn
a woman who can only grow dying things.
Amina Iro, a Prince George’s County, MD native, is a Muslim, Nigerian-American writer and spoken word artist in the First Wave Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Neurobiology and English-Creative Writing. She has performed at several prestigious venues, including The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Washington Convention Center, the historic Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, and various colleges and universities. As a member of the 2013 DC Youth Slam Team, Iro represented the area at the 2013 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, where the team placed 2nd in the world.