Safia Elhillo
The Animal

i was a child greedy in my skin hungers    my stomach

churned by festival meat    the lamb in the courtyard



with its necklace of rope    gone & in place of a memory

pools of its blood in the dust        where i played barefoot


with the cousins    wearing the small boys’ alallah

for which i cried    until mama habab sent for the tailor


crisp pinstriped jalabiya & its smart striped trouser

i took great care to keep it pristine    & cried on days


it was taken from me to wash    twisting on the line like

my truer body    now i am the farthest


i’ve ever been & the fabric tears        canopy of fig trees

arranged in place of mothers    i face homeward & feel


once again that i am longing    for my uniform to return

from the water    that i am waiting for the animal i took


care to name    to wake & nuzzle its wet face into my hand

i wake on festival days    & reach for something to wear


& find only that bright chiffon    that irritating clanking of bangles

i wake on festival days to the smells of charring animal


& no one to accompany me to the prayer    no one to look

upon my naked feet    no one to touch me at all



Found In Volume 49, No. 05
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  • Safia  Elhillo
Safia Elhillo
About the Author

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House 2021), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021).