salihu

the roads were free of cars
the sun had its arm around you

you walked for forty minutes
to sell wheat at the sunday market
trying to pay for your mother’s medication.

you hadn’t expected them to be on patrol
when they should’ve been at church.

your brother’s body is another sack of wheat
it twitches against you, unable to support itself

your own ribs shift under your skin
blood runs from your eyebrows into your mouth

his breath becomes wet in your ear
and you can no longer carry him 

his head is flush against the tarmac
like a pomegranate split open

he tries to blink away the dirt in his eyes
his black palms stretch out towards you
he coughs and the sun lets go.  
 

 

Country

My ancestors never came close to the city.

Their graves are on coastlines and in open fields,
their last breaths were not in flats but in the mountains
and out on the open sea.

The first of my family to die here was my father,
a man who longed for the country,
where he would skip white stones in clear lakes. 

My mother loved London
the way that grey bricks fought the fierce wind
until it was a soft breeze playing on her face.

I love the esprit de corps, 
the thin film of blood on concrete blocks
where my hand makes contact whenever I fall.

But at night, 
I hear the gurgle of the river,
and from the forest the owls call me,

the dun rocks beckon and the leaves on the trees salute. 

The wind gently summons me
and I come to a house where I see my own children
eating bakllavë together, 

and I, the prophet, singer, the crone,
chase them like a child chases a butterfly.  


Nora Selmani is a recent graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. Her poems have appeared in femrat magazine, and the zine which she helped to launch with the Women’s Association at the University of Birmingham womanifesto. She has also written articles for the Birmingham branch of The University Paper and had academic work published by Porridge. A Londoner of Kosovar descent, Nora’s work deals with issues around diaspora, conflict, immigration, and homesickness. She can be found on Twitter @muhaxherkemami.