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Special Feature: Edil Hassan

Poetry, Special Features

One Self I Sing

In the Qur’an, poets are depicted as bewildering liars. Language—
an unlawful alchemy, a sinner’s sihr. On the one-on-one date
with God, I shout, Deny me an afterlife! I’ll just make a new one,
and horns sprout from my head. My mother, workshopping
her childhood, recalls stolen shillings and the emptied pockets
of nuns. What is removed are the entrails I could make a career of
if the DOD didn’t beat me to it. Historical amnesia as mood lighting. As every need
-based essay, diversity statement, and writing, I was the only
and never, I was made the only. On TV, the billionaire asks,
were you silent or were you silenced? My father, not knowing
what I know, is honeying the story of my birth.
He wasn’t there. He hates that he wasn’t there.
He asks, Do you remember who first held you? I answer,

Yes. I remember.
I remember.

…….

Iconography of Teenage Devotion:

the ahistoric reverence of old gods and other
delusions dictated in high school: a lake monster’s bones
interned beneath the water’s unctuous thirst. Snowflakes
captured in velvet. Ethan Allen, imprisoned
and homesick, writing lovingly of a world made better
by carceral logic; the truly Divine that gather
in throwback mix CDs and dreams: Sade holding a note
like her throat’s a minaret. Brandy’s eyebrows, each a harp string
plucked and ringing gold; the gap toothed deliverance
of D’Angelo’s How Does it Feel? as supplemental sex education;
Luster’s Pink to quench the fields sewn against the scalp;
the snap of a flip phone as the learned theatrics
of closure; the no-money-having-pouted prowl
on a Saturday at the mall; worship of the holy trinity:
Hollister, Abercrombie, and American Eagle; the contradiction
of low rise jeans and all this ass; class consciousness
raised prematurely by the hot lunch versus cold lunch debate;
the disciplined drip of long-sleeved, skirt-to-the-ankle,
pashmina-pinned summers; lipglossas shiny as a coin yearning
to be flipped; the sacrilege of a crisp thobe and dusty sneakers;
aunties as an extension of paternal surveillance, and eyeing
their sons anyway; iron fisted refusal of cigarettes and the eager
smoke of shisha; girls roaming the house of God proselytizing
the devilish good looks of a pre-solo Zayn Malik; romance,
imagined or otherwise, as a study in the correlation
between the speed of a clock and a tedious lecture;
the authenticity and significance of text
messages deciphered and debated among a mixed choir
of the hype and disbelieving aka the Girls. Here I am,

as always, flirting with my own desire;

desire, that beautifies my face
against the bright, liquid hope of a screen;

desire, that is compact. That sings
against the palm; desire, that quick,

darkening knowing
of the heart managed
into a single, self-sacrificial ; -)

…..

Language Instruction

The issue, the teacher tells me, is that I believe
everything is a woman. Isn’t every
-thing a woman: a constellation as sharp and imperative
as an anklebone. Native sorrow. The blink
of locusts yellowing the air. A green doorway as wide mouthed
as astonishment. Wrong. I am only correct, he says,
when I say hunger is a woman. Then he writes in the book
of my faults, recording this mistake
alongside the others: my faith
in possession, my inability to conjugate
wonder. Wouldn’t wonder leave him, too, had the light
turned to him, as it did to my face, and said: turn
away. In this wetness, there is no revelation?
Why the pleasure in obeying? I turn.
Toward the general mildew of the day I go.
I am going. I was gone, from myself, only to recall that this
is it— being a woman
is being, and return to the usual devotionals
as the teacher strikes his pen— correction,
a music sweeter than syntax— against my skull
in time: To see the past one must first root
the tongue in the future. To see
the future one must first root the foot
in a boat. I break:
the light stands— as if the light had two feet
and a mother— at the door, so rigid,
so handsome, so negating that I am
Wrong. Why
then, I want to ask, is my mouth
a creek in need of damming?
Why then am I struck with the urge
to copulate?

……

Edil Hassan is a Somali-American poet and writer. She has received support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Stadler Center for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry and the Academy of American Poets. She is also anthologized in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3 Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019) edited by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo. Hassan is the author of Dugsi Girl (Akashic Press, 2021) which was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New Generation African Poets series by the African Poetry Book Fund.

……

From Special Features Editor Gary Jackson:

Edil Hassan recognizes the versatility of the lyric, using poetry as a vehicle to simultaneously celebrate and interrogate the limits of language (“I was the only, and never, I was made the only”). Whether it’s a lyrical ode to growing up under such cultural touchstones as D’Angelo’s “How Does it Feel? (if you know, you know); meditations on how desire simultaneously wounds us, yet is all we sometimes have; or exercises in writing your own origin story; Hassan understands that sometimes, you have to write yourself into existence. These poems delight and trouble, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.