“Self Portrait With No Flag” by Safia Elhillo

(April is #PoetryMonth)

Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese-American poet. She is a recipient of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize.  Her debut collection is The January Children (University of Nebraska-African Poetry Book Fund).  I’ve been reading her poetry and I really like!

Self-Portrait With No Flag

i pledge allegiance to my
homies      to my mother’s
small & cool palms     to
the gap between my brother’s
two front teeth      & to
my grandmother’s good brown
hands       good strong brown
hands gathering my bare feet
in her lap

i pledge allegiance    to the
group text      i pledge allegiance
to laughter & to all the boys
i have a crush on      i pledge
allegiance to my spearmint plant
to my split ends      to my grandfather’s
brain & gray left eye

i come from two failed countries
& i give them back      i pledge
allegiance to no land    no border
cut by force to draw blood    i pledge
allegiance to no government    no
collection of white men carving up
the map with their pens

i choose the table at the waffle house
with all my loved ones crowded
into the booth     i choose the shining
dark of our faces through a thin sheet
of smoke     glowing dark of our faces
slick under layers of sweat     i choose
the world we make with our living
refusing to be unmade by what surrounds
us      i choose us gathered at the lakeside
the light glinting off the water & our
laughing teeth     & along the living
dark of our hair    & this is my only country 

  - by Safia Elhillo



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