Event Information:

  • Three poems by Sarah Lubala

    Portrait of a Girl at the Border Wall

    all the women in my life are hungry

    i have written this one hundred times
    i do not know how else to tell it
    how to write
    the girl by the roadside
    the bruised peach,
    the narrow collar,
    the night full of birds

    her body is a long river
    that cuts through every room
    see her in the kitchen,
    see her standing behind the gate,
    see how she cups her hands
    for soap
    for bread
    for sweet milk

    tell me
    where do i put her?
    this girl pressed against the border
    this girl swallowing her papers whole
    this girl bird-wailing through a fence

    see her hands
    holding the broken saucer
    stitching the skirt’s hem
    cradling the last orange
    begging the names of God

    where do i put her?
    tell me what is owed

    the fist of hair
    the cut lip
    the legs
    split like fruit

    who will take her?
    this sorrow-of-home-girl
    this river-of-bees-girl
    this blood-honey-girl
    this night-singing-girl
    this throat full of ghosts

    6 Errant Thoughts On Being a Refugee

    on the worst of my days
    this body
    is a gimcrack-vessel
    no more than two lungs and
    a tremor
    nailed to salvaged wood

    grief travelled with me
    across the Ubangi river

    i prayed love and all her cognates
    on the passage over:
    libet (to please)
    lips (to be needed)
    lyp (to beg)

    i arrived with
    bruised knees
    wet hair
    a mouth-full of salted fish

    i am so
    for holiness
    for communion
    for a God you can sink
    your teeth into

    i was raised on the Congolese-gospel
    i can teach you how to forget
    where you are from
    to worship the wide road before you
    hands open
    like this:
    make each palm
    a letter
    to the sky

    Beni is a town
    with one police station
    And many graves

    i should go back
    my people are weeping

    is a narrow bed to sleep in

    Boy with the Flying Cheekbones

    théophile [tey-aw-fee]

    Dear Théophile
    i imagine your bed
    stills smells like burnt sugar
    and keen aching
    i cannot cross the threshold
    that room is steeped in a fever so ravenous
    it devours the air

    i've been thinking about all the hungers
    in men's chests
    something about absence and
    the heart growing fonder

    Dear Théophile,
    you and i belong
    to the same bruised piece of earth
    the rivers
    and anthems
    and old names
    are in you

    still i smell
    the hot bread
    the overripe mangos
    the filthy currency

    still i feel
    the sweltering april sky
    the villages aflame
    the pot-holes like wounds
    in my side

    Dear Théophile,
    where are you now?
    where will this find you?
    how do i tell you your hands were scripture
    in full bloom
    each finger a slender verse
    i knew nothing of such kindness
    mercy me

    though i have not seen them in years
    i pray they can still make
    okra soup
    ginger beer
    wenge figurines
    a fist
    a plea

    of all the prayers
    commit but one to memory:
    me before you

    you bury me

    Sarah Lubala works as a Development Worker for an Education NGO in Johannesburg. When she’s not at the office, she can be found in gardens, drinking copious amounts of tea and reading Pablo Neruda’s Love Sonnets.