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We, Ancestors photo

August 31, 2021

We, Ancestors

Angbeen Saleem

we, endlings,
             will be buried
                          where the earth
meets our lips. Where
                           our throats are the dens
            of an unke(m)pt language.
We’ve kept no country,
             no promise to ourselves.
                                       Held hands softened only
by one another next to the light
                          of a passed-down lamp. We mark
              our presence with alhamdulillahs
                                                     whispered into the cheek
                                        of a tree. Each place you
pray will pray for you,
                         our mothers told us.
                                    Every step on every
           piece of this earth an
                                                invocation against hopelessness. Our feet
                       our saints. Our eyes
                                     bear witness to the ones that cannot
                                                              afford to be buried near their families.
            We love what has been
                                     lost before we lose it
                                                 because we know this world
                       pickles our losses
and makes them just sweet enough
            to eat again. What can you give us
                                                  that we have not already served as a main course?
                        We don’t need you to come back for our
                                    bodies. We are already cliff,      
                                                                                                    edges ghosted
                        into ocean. We have already braided
                                                 the tendrils closed — ghosts make room for
           ghosts. What holds us down
                          also keeps us listening. Our hearts fashion a world
           we think we can’t live in. Like the women
                                    who came before us, we know
what it’s like to be our own suckle.
                                                             Buckling beneath the weight
                                      of our pyre, the earth hardens,
                         refusing our teat, our seed.
                                      We wail for a silent recompense.
                                                               We remake our lineage
                                                  in our own image. We eke
                         out joy,
                                     holy in its drip.
                                                  We live off snared hope,
             the snaked utterance
                                                               of our names: daughter,
                         sister, mother,
                                                                                           star, song.


After Celine Song and Julie Dash