conversations from empire
This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Asiya Wadud.
conversations from empire
I am a good swimmer, I’ve always lived by the sea. I am a good swimmer, I’ve always lived by the sea. I set out on this journey, it has not been easy. The rocks at Rhodes nearly ran us aground. The doors to the hull, they keep them locked. There is water on all sides but not much for drinking. The gangs they chase us even on the high seas. Bismillah from Mogadishu. And I am a good swimmer, I’ve always loved the sea. The way its light envelops me. And the manner that it holds my dreams. And the tides that mark each new moon. And the children who wash up with the tide. And the seals who incant young doom. And how the salted seas preserve a dream. And the doors to the hull, they keep them locked. And the Mare Nostrum guard their seas. And their rubber bullets pocked my brother. But the long arm of empire, it grips back and we arrive on rotten pallets.
Now, we are but arm’s length from rescue. And we all need some grace from God. This journey has not been easy. The light of the search vessel it beckons and we 700 rush starboard. And our weight lumbers and our vessel topples. Now, I have always loved the sea. I save whom I can. A baby be damned without a mother. A mother be damned without her child. A man be damned without a country. A country be damned without a people. A nation of no one trickle north and the long arm of empire it whips back. I am a good swimmer. I’ve always loved the sea.
On April 4, 1945 the US 89th Infantry Division liberated Buchenwald. Infantrymen came with their K-Rations: meat, cheese, biscuits. A body after handed years of starkest deprivation must go easy. Some newly freed ate their ration unrelentingly, who can blame them? Remembering a taste for cheese and meats the richness of being free. Now I have always loved being free. To taste it so keenly. Many perished in early April when their bodies could not consume these markers of being free. What is a body if not one that learns to live through darkest depravity?
What kind of God licks back like that? What kind of ire washes up the hungry to be free? What dark horse come to greet when a mare seek her baby? Why the empire licks and we have to lick back?
Well, Omar, let us break bread for our brethren. For the baby be damned without a mother, for the mother be damned without her child, for the man be damned without a country. For the God who take some seeming no reason. So close to liberation and some empire licks back.
Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).