On Eid We Slaughter Lambs & I Know Intimately the Color

Safia Elhillo

i ride an uber spilling the last of the day’s ginger lightdriver handsome enough to pull listening sounds as he chatsour talk is casual at its centerbut at the edges i taste an old brittlenessmemory of something burnthe circles his mouth to an electronic cigarette& its vapor braids into the earth & vinegar smell of sweatyou are muslim he tells menot a question         & i nodsmile at his smoke-dark eyes in the mirrori count the prayer beadsstrung in a necklace from his rearviewninety-nine & perfectglossy & unwornmine are sandalwood& leave their perfumewhen cabling through my fingersdrink? smoke?he demands an inventory of my wickednessin the way men of my faith think me immediately theirsdaughter & sister & wifealways a test & never asking my namein the rippling mirrormy head uncoveredextra button undone from my shirti know this exchange & its right answersa blink & head shaken nohe squints his endless eyesat a red light he turnscounts what he sees in my face& the light drips in to share our ridenew vermillion along our bodiesi blink again & measure his disbeliefi am tired in the new dark& ready to confirm whatever he decides i amfor a moment of quietmoment to restmy loosened hair smells of coalfloats over the backseat like smoke

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Safia Elhillo is the author of the poetry collection The January Children, which received the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and a 2018 Arab American Book Award.

Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee, co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.” She is a 2019-2021 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

"Fearless . . . has the makings of a breakthrough.”
Los Angeles Times

“Amidst moments of personal trauma . . . [Elhillo’s] poems dig deep into how shame is passed down generations of women. . . . With these conversations comes power. And the title of Elhillo’s new book sings of the autonomy she imagines for her girls.”

“Rebellion, liberation, multitudes.”
Ms. Magazine

Girls That Never Die is an incredibly moving, and well-structured collection of poetry about being a Muslim girl, about shame, about the silent hurts women carry, about the pressures of cultural expectations, about dangerous silences. The writing here is incisive and intimate and eloquent. Truly, a stunning collection of poems. I particularly appreciated the range of forms across the poems and the structure of the book as a whole. Many of the poems end in ways that will leave you gasping. Loved this book. Some standout poems: Ode to My Homegirls, Zamalek, and Orpheus but really every single poem is stellar, no skips as the kids say. Also, A+ cover.”
—Roxane Gay, author of Difficult Women and Hunger

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