A Nigerian proverbthat when you lose your bridge,climb down the mountain.Instead, my mother grabbedthe Atlantic. Enough for a pathto carry daughters.Every mile of seabed leapt overused to form statuesof her brothersin her mind. On her back,I slept a journey.She whispered, leaveour language behind, afraidof an old countryon my tongue.In America,feet never dried.Half-breed turned hemlock.My mother, my ropethrough the sea, my vine.I arrived, language's orphan,a two-citizen child, no country.Wake, a dead woman'sdaughter, homesick with no hometo ill towards, listeningfor what English doesto my blood.
“The Leaving” from UN-AMERICAN: by Hafizah Geter.
Published by Wesleyan University Press September 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Hafizah Geter.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
"Hafizah Geter's Un-American chronicles the haunting legacies of brutal loss written in blood and memory across continents—'together, slowly domesticating / our suffering.' The poems' narrative clarity edges against exile, and in gorgeous language deliver a trenchant testimony and understanding."
—Khadijah Queen, author of Anodyne
"Hafizah Geter's Un-American reads like a high lyric conversation overheard. Poem after poem, the most ordinary of items—cups, cards, couches—get ratcheted up into their proper glory. In other words, Geter sees the world as a stage set for what she needs to tell her family but can't, what she needs to hear from her family but won't. And all of this is done with attention to what this one beautiful story says about the so-called American story."
—Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition