I was wearing an orange dress, I had no clue why or how. I didn’t own a single item of clothing that was orange—nor did I ever plan to. I was in a ballroom. A stadium? No, a ballroom, a hotel ballroom. The same one I’d been to years ago when I had to go to some relative’s wedding. That was a strange day; I’d seen so many family members that I hadn’t seen in ages at that wedding. The music was so loud. I could feel judgmental eyes on me for staying at the table where the aunties sat instead of getting up and dancing with people my age. But the food was great that night, and it made up for the headache, the awkwardness, and the fact that I felt like a hostage to traditions the whole night. Meanwhile, this time there was no wedding. Instead, there were hundreds of people I knew and had met throughout my life. Most of the faces were blurry. I couldn’t tell if I was a blur to them too or not.
How long is a life avoiding the beach? believing God spoke through my father some found seashell pushed off a shelf I cannot bury. I’d like to think there are aisles of men praying somewhere once I’m gone/that their tongues wrap around where I kept warm like a turban woven in prayer by strangers/that I am not found stiff/half hanging off a hotel bed under a phrasebook in another useless language/I hope I go dreaming in Arabic/because love there sounds like the wind passes through every vowel/somewhere buried in my voice there is asphalt singing as brothers build rooms for one another/I find new corners in case I come back/everyone gets a duaa to float across the lake and watch disappear/this is mine.
K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent. His work has appeared in World Literature Today, The African American Review and About Place Journal, among others. He can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
On a major thoroughfare between a porn theatre and a filling station, it was just past the central cemetery and the bridge over the railway lines. A young communist lived in the room across from yours. He worked in a hotel. You had no job and no prospects but, for the moment, didn’t care. You’d sit together at the brittle table in the kitchen, all dark browns and orange, smoking, and listening to cassettes of sixties pop tunes, with small cups of coffee, now and again a beer. You had a couple of books and some traveler’s checks. Day after day you’d wander the sunburnt city, surprised, over and over again, at how often you got lost.