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Sisal and Lesson



To weave a sisal basket one’s fingers must be nimble the way they touch necks or turn pages. They must be very dry. We will dye these baskets brown or leave them yellow. Whichever is easier for winnowing. A single stalk moves inwards, guided by a thousand. The wind moves around us like chewing. In a way, you are also my child, she says. You were also in my womb when I had her. To be born means to take responsibility for whoever birthed you. This is what I am learning today. So I say, grandma, look at that dog rolling in the sand. So that we can laugh. And then laugh harder.

Because I am my grandmother's mother.
and the mother
of my great grandmother
and of my mother
and of myself.
I am the mother of my mother
of my mother of my mother
I am my my mother.

my therapist asks me who takes care of you.
who takes care of you.

Outside the weather sticks
to skin like wet skin. Light reaches
us like scattered flour.
there were three of us.
It is easy to be lost.


My father and I drive in silence. No sound but the grinding of gears. A car as old as my resentment. He shifts for me. Then the sudden urge to hit metal to metal, sending the car skidding endlessly towards an end. Handling stick is like handling a woman so why couldn't he be good to my mother. As if responding, the leather on the steering wheel begins to peel away. Black bits sticking to my hangs. The neighbourhood we drive through is a place I've always wanted to grow up in: houses big enough to hide anything you want. Anywhere you want. The trees lining the road guide us into a dream of gentle suburbia, where someone tightly holds their child. She has not yet torn up the pages. A jaguar slinks by carrying someone's father. I ask the trees what a metal box could do to erase the drift between generations.

I sleep the dream of a sick person
Between my dreams there are patches of darkness that vibrate to the pulse of whatever love song I heard last.
The black pulses are desperate.
There is a film called loving where all the people kiss for three minutes.
my fists clench where their eyes meet.
I go out into the streets in the middle of the night.
Is loving in this tree? In the scent of a flower? In the stones of the stair?

Yesterday we drilled seven holes in the wall trying to look for a place to hang my mosquito net.
So that I could have a place to rest.
The first hole was Thunder Road—I held you as you cried in the parking lot.
The second was the races. I still have the picture: me bald, you alive.
The third was an empty Josh Groban CD case stashed in between the car seats.
The fourth is a leather passport case.
The fifth hole is the frame of our picture at the races. It is made of cardboard, pink beads and playdough.
The sixth is the thing that holds up the frame, which is missing.
The seventh is when you came to our bake sale and made the other dads laugh
by putting queen cakes on your head.
Today my only home is a P.O. Box.

—Awuor Onguru is a sophomore in Berkeley College.
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