Washington Square Review

Safia Elhillo




if you see him tell him i have
opened all the windows      a storm collects outside
& i have only ever loved    men marked to die     reassure me
i watch the wind tangle up the curtains    in a way that is not
cruel   tell him          to push me up against the cinnamon tree
to be kissed    watch me disappear into its bark
wait        never leave me    & not to be afraid
to turn me        return me   pull my leaves off by fistful
& listen for my particular autumn               dismantle me for firewood
& with what is left             a house


because the night air coats
my sweat-bright neck

with its tongue    because
my hair    writes a slick cursive

across my brow & nape
because all day the sun

rode my particular brown
& made it sing     i let

his mouth open & add
to the dark in the room

with my name


i know a boy who tells a story
about bleeding into the red sea
i see the colors when i have bad dreams
a boy who made me a wound a door
to open and close    he fills my eyes & fills
my eyes like a tear or like the hot white sun
who broke the beads i wear around my waist
material objects my mother says absorb the harm
meant for my body