Asmaa Jama

Asmaa Jama is a Danish born Somali artist, poet and co-founder of Dhaqan Collective, a feminist art collective creating collaboratively with Somali elders and young people.They work between languages and write about ghosts, hauntings and archives. Last year, they were writer-in-residence at Arnolfini. They have been published in print and online in places like Ambit, Ifa Gallery, ANMLY and The Good Journal. Asmaa’s work has been translated into French, Swahili, Somali, Spanish and Portuguese. They are currently performing in Mailles, an internationally touring production. Most recently they were shortlisted for the Babel and Specimen Press translation prize, and were a recipient of The White Pube writer’s grant. Asmaa was a semi-finalist in spoken word competition BBC Words First and is an inaugural alumni of Obsidian Foundation

For Ahmeds

After Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
(ahmed=- al-hamd , noun one for whom others are grateful)
ahmed alone,
watching a fish move till he became a net swallowing an anchor whole / threw off his
and was a blueprint home/ a site /a flotation device/ a wound / iodine / the needle his brother
used / the flame after / petrol shine on a black body / a mouthful of something which was
ahmed say lodestar/ say ocean in his first language /
can’t remember homonyms/
carried the oud here anyway/ in his crevices /
swallowed it drinkable /
gave in hollow/ caved/ asked to be a shadow and was / a hole / the bucket after/
wanted / spent/
ahmed asleep the first time he missed his wife /
turning mortal without land
say someone else’s earth now/
ahmed thankful/
prayer made out of thigh bones and sweat/ folded to a god that couldn’t hear him
ahmed all his children, all their names
oil in too distant -water, the last time they spoke/ date pits to sand
ahmed in wudhu, water held in air,
made the atlantic mouthfuls with his palms

I think of the first person who came across a date palm

i think of the first person who came across a date palm / how the water stilled around them / how
they knelt and drank where it was rooted/ and said land / which then became balad/ which then
became thing we all longed to go back to/

even the koi fish shackled to the shallows/ believes in something greater than its scales/ i mean
there is a cause for miracles / there is a way to thank a cloud for water /

we do not build minarets needlessly /

despite what they told you/ your skin is not your shroud/ you will not be buried alone and unwrapped
/ something will wound itself something will part/even the sky / even the ground / something will
weep and shred lotus flowers / i mean there will be a ceremony / i mean you are loved / i mean how
can a loved thing not be ceremonied / we will raise our palms/ dip our calves in oil/ fry rice/ let gold
fill the hollow you leave / press our foreheads to the ground you / breathed on/ that place now
palpitating audibly / and say still / peace now/

and when the people leave earth circling their foreheads / i will stay i will split the date palm/ and
place it on your grave/ know something else broke the day you left/ something else leaks through
and follows you

Consider my father as a child

consider my father as a child skin still taut and brown, not yet thundered upon, consider him now
collapsing into another century, finds himself a mountain, finds himself the mouth of hell and sits and
waits for his death, prays wrist to the sky for lightening, his back in moonlight, slivered, his back in
moonlight iridescent scars, remembering the story of everything that touched him, he is silent, stares
out towards the wet gash below the horizon, calls it by another name badda , calls it by another name,
turns to it sometimes, and walks all the way to it, to where it almost braces his ankle badda , dreams
and wakes up clutching his wrist, holds it aloft, god witness my brokeness , take me to the badda, then
one day he got up and walked into it

we trawled the sky for his body, we tried to follow him, we turned salt and attempted to dissolve, the
sea is already thirty-five parts salt, the sea could not consume us if it tried to, even with our wrists
raised, we were heavy with memories and sorrow, water can’t wash that away . water won’t wash that