Love Letter to Omdurman & Other Poems
love letter to omdurman
you feel the way shai laban spreads onto the tongue. honey clouded with powdered milk. every town in omdurman is a crater, dimples collecting ghee and sugar. earth always green & brown & sweet. twenty-four years old. one hundred versions of revolution but it’s always the second one that has my heart. always the darkest brown, the darkest blue. marwa aldowlia blasting in the car as we drive down dongola road & the potholes know to stay out of our way & haboba hangs onto our breath & sugar fills our lungs & omdurman knows life & death & spleen.
the price of tomatoes is always more expensive tuesday mornings, but you sweet-talk the vegetable guy – the doctor at the i.c.u. & the tomatoes become honey & haboba’s hands become water & shai laban is the sweetest syrup. & we pretend not to know that your laugh is diabetes or that it is so easy for kidneys to stop working. & we pretend not to know that the bats fluttering over the nile under halafaya bridge are all of our ancestors. or that the bag of lemons you bring me from tuti island never ever empties.
haboba fatima wipes the sleep from her face
fingers light wheat swaying in air
the cat jumps off the bed
swallows itself into the last century
deera square in the photographs downtown riyadh, mama amaal on big wheels
where all the olives dream & my uncle departed here & not here
repeats cairo, egypt in his sleep
his forehead beautiful and moonlit. cairo cairo
the حلمية الزيتون apartment where my cousins & i learn to belly dance & stay up until 2am eyes sleepy & glued to the television, playing cards & watching mazzika zoom
& this happens today & every day for fourteen years until –
omdurman, sudan – the year is mid-20th century colonial and corralled
streets dusted in amber, wallowed by goat milk & straw & clay.
it is always cool under the neem tree.
& in the house with the purple steel door handle melted by the noon sun
haboba amna tosses her cowrie divination shells & my mama named faith
in arabic & her cousin, eyes orbed & gazelle watch while their world spins
& the shells land, ceremonied.
in the sand, the child faces of my mama & her cousin swallow the features
of their ancestors a soft jumble of infinite rebirths.
the ginger fuzzy and fibrous tickles fires between my molars
& i think about how weird it is that toothpaste tastes
the way playdough smells on your fingertips.
& there is tingling in the corners of my teeth
& there is
boarded & departed especially in the moments
when lifting my body through space feels
alien the way i swallow mars & i have always been
a celestial body moving
never human & earth was never home
& sudan was never home & stolen land
is never home
& i am always in departure
& arrival everywhere & nowhere
to be found in this world & hesitant about leaving
to the next
Faatimah Solomon (she/her) is a poet, writer, and collage artist. Her work explores themes of longing, homemaking, memory, diaspora, and exile. She draws from Sudanese personal and familial histories – specifically from oral storytelling traditions, photographs, and piecing together community and family trees and lineages. She is always always always thinking about the confluence of the two Niles and her habobas.