A Separation

by Safiya Sinclair

Born in the ink of the vulture,
hauled beneath the same wing,
we were dropped like offal across the waiting sand,
fingers webbed together
at the sinews. There your matted hair,
your one grey tooth.
There the strange ocean

offered you nothing
but your fear of drowning.

How you crouched inside the palm
of a breadfruit leaf, sneezed black
feathers and cried all night,

already soured
to our half a life.

You wanted the breast and the bottle
and your thumb. You never learned
how to choose, so you never chose me.

Beneath the scar of our thunderstorm,
small bodies pressed navel to navel,
we resigned to suffer our two halves,

whole worlds existing between us.
Our silence. Our stomachs burning hot
in the Kingston sun.

Back then I wanted more of you
than you could give. Wanted to strike
you down with lightning,

and watch you struggle
with the sea. Will your hands
come shattering at my teeth,

or your hair, which never
stopped growing, come strangle me

in my bed. Where you found me embracing
another woman; the helix redacted.
The body unsexed.

I remember you spat
and this body unfeathered,

your tongue lodged with disgust
in my naked rattle.

Was it then I became something
you could no longer love, another
stranger you pass alone in the street?

One toothless bird shivering
soundless in the air.

Brother, I reached for you
and there was no one there.


ASeparation_Sinclair_Photo_lgeSafiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and received her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia. Her first full-length collection, Cannibal, won the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry (University of Nebraska Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The Boston Review, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded a writing fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Amy Clampitt Residency Award, an Emerging Writer Fellowship from Aspen Summer Words, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

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