Two Poems – Laura M Kaminski

(for Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, after his poem “This is Home”)


This is Home. I know. I know that life
is fragile here. When leaders do not
count and name the dead
with reverence, it is left to us
to whisper prayers.

This is Home. We are enticed
with weak tea dreams, not strong enough
to wake us, not hot enough to
bring the dawn. The sun lounges
to the north, rubbing his feet in Sahara

dust at the gate of Lake Chad,
but no one rises to welcome
him, invites him to drink water.
We distrust too much to greet
him, bid him sit, share salt.

Albishirinku! The cry of sunlight,

eager to speak to us, illuminate—

Albishiri! Albishiri! I carry news!
But we do not say Goro, offer
kola nut, listen to the morning.

Ga ta! Ga ta nan! The sun’s
announcement: here’s your riddle,
here’s your moral, here’s
your meaning. She is here!
Look, she’s right here!

But we do not answer, we
do not open, we do not say:
Ta je, ta dawo. Our meaning
had gone, but she has
returned. We do not say it

because our Meaning, she has
Not returned yet, to this Home
of gnawing hunger and explosions.
This is Home. Whatever riddle
my child asks, the answer’s fear.

But tomorrow, the sun will
call out again: Salaamaleku!
Peace to you and yours! This is
Home. Are we brave enough to welcome
in this stranger? Enter. Peace.




(a memorial)


soft flesh does not know where to stand
ignorant and innocent, it does not know
Tuesday is not the day to ride the
bicycle and ring the bell, not the day
to cheerfully offer to take the elder
neighbor’s coin for her to the market
promising to bring her back the very
biggest pound of sugar that they have

later, your mother blames the bullet
your elder neighbor’s grief and guilt

leave her inconsolable and silent—

prostrate on your grave she rubs rough

earth into her skin as if this surface pain,

this process of slow-flaying is penance from

which only death can free her, as if she

finds her living flesh intolerable now

your father, thin, tightens a belt
upon heavy cotton pants so loose they
barely touch his legs before they’re
tugged tightly, clipped and zipped

laced into his boots—he does not

blame the bullet or the gun—he does

not even blame the man who, like him,
thin and tired, fired—fired without
seeing a young boy on a bicycle, a
handle-bar basket of sugar, sweet sugar

he goes to work, your father, he takes
his post against a post, he slowly pans
his weapon’s barrel across his pie-wedge

field of fire—they have all, in silence,

in the way they spit their wet tobacco
in the dust, shared this silent creeping
nightmare, this fear that when the time
comes and they must take the shot, the
field will not be clear, that someone’s

child—a child with a doll or dog or

ball, a child with the best and biggest pound

of sugar—will suddenly appear behind the

bumper of the target’s SUV, will suddenly
ring the bicycle bell and enter heaven

do not think he does not grieve, this man
your father as he stands, eyes watering

from sweat-salt and dust—sometimes

he will blot them, one only one at a time
with the worn back of his hat, the damp,
damp hair revealed clings immobile to
his skull, and in the solitude of this busy
market street he thanks God privately for
mercy, offers gratitude that can’t be
spoken, thanks God again for mercy, sweet
mercy, that it was not his bullet that strayed

all day he prays like this, watching the road


Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. Links to her books and published poetry can be found at

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