E is for Eden
It lasts a while. The bitter aftertaste of sorrow
and something sweet. Like honey waves soaked
in lemon juice, it creates hollow spaces between
moments of unabridged whiteness. Glance over
once and the skies have a different story to tell.
You were created with a purpose:
a land of all lands, neither heaven nor earth
suspended between the blue wings of oceans
and their unoccupied gaze.
Once there were creatures here, inhabiting
your luscious corners, and they prodded and swiveled
and flew to please you.
You were made in somebody’s image,
but you have forgotten.
What remains now is the aftermath –
even that stripped of all its glory.
The eyes of men are saddened by the sudden
shadows unveiling in women’s eyes. Your breath
was once dirt, ash, tangible and ugly. Your face
did not exist. The contours that shape your smile,
your hairline, the timid dimple on the left cheek, they
were all ash. Here is what was: only the thought of
being loved and rejected, being loved and birthed,
being loved and destroyed. Your breath does not have
the apple’s acre taste; it smells of something wild and
unadorned, it says do not fear, it is I, it whispers at night
when you are cold and shivering and alone in this world.
This breath is not yours to take:
mend it and oceans will flow once again.
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet, visual artist and cultural activist. She grew up in Eritrea & Ethiopia. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Her work has been published in The 2River View, Blast Furnace, Blood Lotus, Bohemian Pupil Press, Cactus Heart, The Missing Slate and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles. You can find her here: http://mahtemshiferraw.com/