CHARIF SHANAHAN


 
 
TIPPU TIP ON HIS DEATHBED IN STONE TOWN

I know my body holds
                      the same dark as those I kept and sold
my beard   the net of routes we took to cross that land
                                       in me   from me   with me

                                               and what of you now
if I had left you there beside the village sea
        heavy bass slipping from your fingers
                    in the shadow of our mast
what of hope        if I had failed—

Please—   I could see no other way
                                          I had to believe
gun body bread cane    forgive me    sister mother land

 
 
 

[Tippu Tip (1837 - 1905) was a notoriously violent leader of the Arab Slave Trade. Based in Zanibar and the son of Muscat Arab and Swahili traders, Tippu Tip predominantly owned black slaves, though he himself was black.]

 
 
 
 
 
 

INTO EACH ROOM WE ENTER WITHOUT KNOWING (II)

Another time, on their bed, he called out
Holding a .38 against her neck
Slurring something about freedom. And she,

Repeating the Arabic name she’d given him—
Salim: the kind, the undamaged—
Paled like flame, an empty cocoon, separating,

Dispersing. He did not intend
To finish; he was trying to speak.

From the hallway, I watched him step down
And walk toward the door, running
His hand through my hair as he crossed

The threshold. Composed, turning
Her face to mine, she closed her robe
And asked me to take the chicken from the freezer.
 
 
 
 



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