I should say kholo, my mother’s brother. / I should say umja, my father’s brother / so you know which branch of the tree to cut. Or / cherish.
A Beautiful Child
after Jericho Brown
You are not as tired of diaspora
poetry as I am of the diaspora. Sometimes
I thank God that I was born inside an American
-made tank. Sometimes I weep within
the beast. My uncle works on the railroads
and goes home to his nuclear family loathing
my queerness from afar. He and I tend
our silence, a beautiful child
until it speaks. Another uncle is a guard
with two ex-wives and a secret love
of comic books. Tragedy made him the head
of his family too soon. Don’t weep for your dad
he said, weep for me. “You didn’t know him
like I did.” I have a third uncle, a mechanic
who visits his home in Lebanon every year
& now I must admit English has failed me.
I should say kholo, my mother’s brother.
I should say umja, my father’s brother
so you know which branch of the tree to cut. Or
cherish. My uncles are doused in industry, good sons
of the State. They get on with what needs
getting on. Language is their least favourite
daughter. They use their mouths for breath
and do their best to forget the world
outside. I think they love where they come
from but in truth, I have never heard them
say so, except to mutter they do not want
to pay taxes in two countries come on
one is killing them already &
isn’t that enough?