exit strategies

by Asmaa Jama

my parents speak to each other of moving, after I come home with tobacco melted on my cheekbones + i say i am acquiring the taste for remains of things that have survived their own ghosts

and they bring up how i asked for my grandfather’s pipe when he passed and said torn alveoli could be tradition, i could tender my lungs, steal healing from arsenic

and they respond with plane tickets, to the land our last family was rolled into, earth still wet with their cotton

and we do not talk about the way i wrote out and burnt the verses that mentioned heaven, which was my way of telling them, i cannot believe in places i have not seen

and at the shiisha cafe, i settle for anything that will make my lungs erode, settle for the thought of xamar of galkayo or garissa, or any number of places my grandfather darkened days in

settle for the bus ride home, for a man who tails me, until i press the stop sign at the moment before mine and leave and turn to see it is him, awoowe pipe where mouth should be, and i tell him of the times i tried to make myself ash-filled and new

the omissions of my parents remade in ash, the uncle who was always laughing I now learn was high, the uncle who had more wives than marriages, the aunt who gave away her lungs for endless green

the cousin who littered empty packets from her window + disappeared beneath the ground to come up fingers and mouth stained gold

the relatives who gave up their mortal bodies to become immortal things, the oldest withering, in ankara which I understand is near the sea which I understand is near the good air that will replace all the bad smoke

cancer rippling and sealing his vocal chords gold / and Mohamed who placed his lips over a plastic bag which at the time was filled with a slick multiverse of colour and fainted / and we both know this means

petrol / and when we drive along the motorway / sometimes he looks like he has wanted for oblivion

like he knows why we live like petroleum on the surface of the ocean / a moment reflecting back the night sky / even god absent again / when we leave