Co-winner of the 2019 #DignityNotDetention Outside Prize
judged by Ilya Kaminsky
Every time I say ‘yes’ I return
feel fingers in a battlefield
divvying land on my arms and chest.
You want to build something with my lips over memories when we fall asleep
so I tell the truth.
Sometimes I think
my hope is living elsewhere.
A single mom raising children
who communicate in sign language.
my passport is a sign people miss on the highway
& swear was never there until they count every visa
I’ve overstayed & start pointing fingers.
we all come back
from this life as the cats in Istanbul.
you to understand that all we will ever be are immigrants,
that when the land recedes the water won’t
know the color of our skin but our bones will.
Sometimes I want
to visit and settle in love but there
are landmines at the border leading to every fantasy door.
Sometimes if you look
hard enough at something it will bloom in your eyes &
make countries for refugees no one took in.
Notes from the judge, Ilya Kaminsky
Lullabies. Wailing Songs. Spells. Those were our species’ first poems. I love how this poem weaves a spell, conjuring something into being, making the impossible feel possible: “Sometimes if you look / hard enough at something it will bloom in your eyes & / make countries for refugees no one took in.”
About the poet
K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent, his work has appeared in World Literature Today, The African American Review and About Place Journal, among others. A selection of his poems were shortlisted for the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Besides writing, he loves reading, the oud & kora, handmade foutas, old school rap, and Sarah Vaughan.