Poetry by Ilhan Dahir

a brief history of the necessary monster

her body is a dialogue – let us begin there. it is hers although
so much of it is everyone else’s. it’s from the rib of, or otherwise
doomed to carry, ribs      expand      and make room for the in-
expendable. it is the first lesson she’s taught in Saturday school. her
mouth is full of tongue that won’t testify for her, she carries a
poisonous honor between her ears, her thighs. her titles – from, of,
in-law. her roles – His, theirs, his. never “I”, never “mine”. always in
relation, with an understanding that existence is
relational.                                     calm and still at the seat of a
trembling mountain, she extends her arms wide enough to hold
prophets after Divine revelation. she leans backwards until the giving
arms reach the soil, pushes the pelvis up like a stubborn weed, the
feet stay planted, suddenly a bridge. the huddled heathens receive
His word across her scabrous stomach and she is still a footnote. a
role, somehow, always abridged.
this was before the great shift of the world, after
biblical times, and just beyond the chapters beginning in post-. still,
not much has changed, except for the length of her last name. still
monstrously constructed from all her prior lives. the maid exists
between worlds, ripped at every meeting point, she is wounded and
healed and beaten and healed no- kicked until she heal(s herself),
stitched together by the thick thread of revolution and her skin all red
from purging. at once covered in opaque black fabric and somehow
naked. there is something unseen about the seer. and something
hyper-visible. her almond eyes are encased in war paint kohl and
she ululates madly before she slits the throats of onlookers and laps
up the blood. greedy.
or was that in a dream.                                           it is all the
same with her. it makes no difference if she did or didn’t as long as it
is said so. this is a dialogue after all. or perhaps a lesson. this story
has been centuries in the making.                                    i know what
it sounds like, like she might break soon. but I also know what it
sounds like when the river meets its ocean and that sound, like so
many great oaks snapping, is the loud cry of a universe multiplying.
when she is tired, she unfurls by the river bed, extends both arms
into two unsightly wings and never cries.






flesh was never meant to be consumed.                                  that was her greatest sin, grandma said.
I was 7 when she clasped my hands and recited the story of dhegdeer like an unwelcome heirloom.

there were other offenses, she was too sharp and too ugly, too much mourning in her feverish groans, too
much appetite.

hargera hushed when she walked and men trembled.
grandma let out a jagged laugh.                                         it is only the women that become possessed.

the men too busy possessing
land with rifles, homes with hands, homes with rifles, land with hands,
too busy naming their own demons (war, holy or otherwise)
to exorcise them.




there are many kinds of burial.

thumbs into borek, again and again, until it is kneaded.
those same thumbs into waiting soil, pressing seeds in like you’ll survive to see the fruit,
face into neck until you’ve been eclipsed,
breath into mouth until two become one,
head into a mountain of pillows until the visions subside,
a hand clasped over a gaping mouth-

i found grandma reading fortunes in the coffee grounds one morning like
her sigh, the moon, drew me in closer than breath                         there is nothing good to report,
I hope you get buried only once.




the Somali word for grave is written the same way as the English word for Allah. so when
they said naag waa guri ama god ha kaga jirto. I couldn’t tell if my choices were between
“the home” and the “grave” or “the home” and “God.” and since “home” belongs to the
possessing men, I choose the second. both times. she saw this coming in 2005, those coffee
grounds held secrets after all,

just not as many as this ground does.

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