when men take by Yasmin Musse

you are your mother’s nightmare


whimpering on her kitchen floor.

three women with eyes yellowed by war

sit around you, humming surah al-fatiha,

rocking back and forth like playground swings in winter.


a fourth woman,

triangle of wrinkles between her brows

peels back your white baati,

pulls apart your legs

and whispers in your ear

did he touch you there huuno? did he?

you say nothing

because your mouth reeks of his hot car and wet tongue,

of his you’re special sagaleey, special like fanta twist.


your mother stops pretending to be busy at the stove

and collapses to the floor.

she curses the absence of your father,

beating her chest like women who pull their lovers

from burning houses.


that night your auntie visits from market harborough,

says you have the eyes of her dead ayeeyo,

an amhara woman who descended from kings,

fattened by halwa and sesame oil in a copenhagen suburb.


an old lady with date-stuffed bags lets herself into the flat.

she pinches your cheeks and whispers to your mother


 why didn’t you teach her how to scream?

saffron lane by Yasmin Musse

after we scratched filigree

onto trees behind

my mother’s house

our wet fingernails

needed a break


i played at being the white lady

from countryfile

i trailed stolen periwinkles

along my sandpaper tongue

trying to taste the sea

you sang diriyam

to english pigeons

near iceland and never asked me




i fade like cilaan

when the sun keels over


or why


i breathe like i’m breathing

through a keyhole holding a key


or why


my ayeeyo prays to elahi

i’ll end up like girls in marka cadey

who crush cardamom with their teeth to taste honey

or freedom


or why


habaryar rubs her blackness away with lemons


or why


all the women in my family

are afraid of bufis and make fun

of my broken somali


hooyo ma taalo? ma joogto?


i tell you i hate questions

enough to ask them like water

especially on chilly days when

politicians rub flakes from

their elbows

and my neighbours

hang the St George’s flag

to remind my dad

this is england

when he forgets


and why


is the tip of my hooyo’s nose red

like the cadaan ladies who

bother her at the council?


and why


does my brother

tell me feelings are for people

who can afford

to scream murder at police?


and why


does the ethnic boy tarry

under my window and ask to see

the length

of my hair

to make sure

i’m pretty?