Poetry / Hussain Ahmed
:: Reincarnation ::
the jinn that sits in my mother’s body is of a distant time zone.
she made tea in the night for all her unseen guests.
her tongue was a deserted ranch where nothing edible could grow,
she said the sky would swallow us all if she doesn’t keep guard.
all our shadows could grow as tall as ten feet, but no one waters it.
mama’s shadow stops growing because she stops sleeping at night.
we sought refuge in the barracks anytime she sets our house on fire
or when the new angel in town was lynched to death. we panicked and left the house
all our windows opened, our sign of allegiance to the governance of the land
beyond the sky. I asked mama what would happen to the ghosts of all our dead
if they come home and find only the ruins of all that should remind them that we say dua’a
in their names. She said let the curfew end, we will find a way to build back our walls.
curfew is our way of mourning all what could not be buried, because they turn ashes
in the fire. the debris suggests where the fire started and it’s not the kitchen.
I scribbled the names of all my dead aunties on the wall, I listed their favorite fruits
beside their names, with the thought that nothing has changed about them.
From the writer
:: Account ::
The poem “Reincarnation” was inspired by my mother’s stories of how every Thursday night all our dead return back to life to come check on their living families. The stories were to encourage us say prayers for all our dead before we slept, and they ended up scaring us. I grew up arguing with my siblings about how loud dog barking in the night were a sign that validated our mother’s stories of reincarnation. However, I used to believe that our dead have signs that help them track our houses without losing their ways. I wrote the poem about the thought I once had about whether we lose any of the ghosts of our dead if the house gets burnt during a crisis and if they ever stop coming because we became scared to hear about them.
Hussain Ahmed is a Nigerian writer and environmentalist. His poems are featured or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Magma, Bayou Magazine, and elsewhere. His chapbook was shortlisted for the Honeysuckle Press, Black River contest, and elsewhere.