An American evangelist, preaching salvation, said it was like being on one side of a river, Jesus on the other, arms long as forever reaching to lift you over. But we only knew hope river, sally waters river – only knew rambling brooks running through the cane as river, a thing you could jump over, or make a way across on stones. We had no imagination of Mississippi or Delaware, rivers so wide they held ships. A saviour with magic arms was pointless.
What the evangelist should have said, was: is like when de river come down just like suh and you find yuself at de bottom, slow breathin unda de surface, speakin in bubbles, growin accustomed to fish and deep and dark and forever – salvation is de man with arms like a tractor who reach in fi pull you out of de river, press de flat of him hands gainst your belly and push de river out of you.
I never had you, nor I suppose will I ever have you. A few words, an approach, as in the bar the other day—nothing more. It’s sad, I admit. But we who serve Art, sometimes with the mind’s intensity, can create—but of course only for a short time— pleasure that seems almost physical. That’s how in the bar the other day— mercifully helped by alcohol— I had half an hour that was totally erotic. And I think you understood this and stayed slightly longer on purpose. That was very necessary. Because with all the imagination, with all the magic alcohol, I needed to see your lips as well, needed your body near me.
Reprinted from C. P. CAVAFY: Collected Poems Revised Edition, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, edited by George Savvidis.
white folks say i remind them of home i who have been homeless all my life except for their kitchen cabinets.
i who have made the best of everything pancakes batter for chicken my life
the shelf on which i sit between the flour and cornmeal is thick with dreams oh how i long for
my own syrup rich as blood my true nephews my nieces my kitchen my family my home
mother guineas favorite son knew rice and that was almost all he knew not where he was not why not who were the pale sons of a pale moon who had brought him here rice rice rice and so he worked the river worked as if born to it thinking only now and then of himself of the sun of afrika
i have gathered my losses into a spray of pain; my parents, my brother, my husband, my innocence all clustered together durable as daisies. now i add you, little love, little flower, who walked unannounced into my life and almost blossomed there.
My sister once gave me A. an ultramarine silk scarf B. a star-shaped candlestick of clear glass C. a guardian angel made from clay and driftwood
My sister loved A. her family B. her partner C. kayaks
My sister’s partner loved A. her B. his family C. kayaks
My sister and her partner loved A. adventure B. sports C. water D. the sea
My sister and her partner A. had been on sea kayaking trips before B. were familiar with that coastline C. were offered a guided tour D. trusted their abilities and experience
My sister sent her children A. a WhatsApp message saying how excited she was about that day’s 10 km kayaking trip B. a picture of the mirror-smooth sea C. a selfie in a swim vest D. emojis of dolphins
My sister’s postcard to our parents A. was sent before the kayaking trip B. was sent by hotel staff after the kayaking trip C. arrived ten days after the kayaking trip, before her funeral
My sister died A. on Friday 13th B. on Saturday 14th
My sister’s partner did not die A. on Friday 13th B. on Saturday 14th
My sister died at sea, alone A. soon after sunset in a storm B. in the dark in a storm C. at dawn, after a storm D. in sunlight, on the morning after a storm
My sister’s partner clung to his kayak at sea, alone A. from sunset to false dawn throughout a storm B. from sunset to sunrise throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond C. from sunset to sunlit morning throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond
My sister died because A. she and her partner spent time on a series of beaches along the coast, picnicking, shell-gathering, sunbathing, resting B. she and her partner spent time exploring the disused submarine tunnel under the cliffs C. she was afraid of the dark inside the tunnel and so she sang, seated in her kayak as her partner listened, sang her heart out for the soaring echo of it, and the echo could not bear to lose her and her voice
My sister died because A. the mirror smoothness of the water began to break, and broken mirrors bring bad luck B. the waves were too small to seem alarming C. the waves grew in strength only slowly
My sister died because A. the land weather forecast was wrong B. the sea weather forecast was wrong
My sister died because A. she was first to round the headland, where the wind bore down on her from the mountains and whipped up the waves B. her partner, some distance behind, saw her being driven off-course and decided to follow C. the wind kept their kayaks apart, barely within shouting range, while the sun went down D. her partner capsized and, holding on with his chin and both hands, could only watch as the sky darkened to storm-black and she sat upright in her kayak, cresting the waves out into the open sea
My sister and her partner A. knew their GPS B. knew they were a kilometre at most from the headland C. could see the village with their hotel further down the coast
My sister and her partner managed to use their mobiles to contact A. the kayak rental owner B. the local police C. the police in the neighbouring country D. the coast guard
The last thing my sister and her partner told each other was A. at least we’ve seen the sunset from out at sea, not just from the beach B. I love you C. let’s not panic D. help is coming
Half a year earlier, my sister and her partner had visited an Indonesian sanctuary for retired elephants, which they helped wash in the nearby stream, getting soaked to the skin. Half a lifetime earlier, she and her husband had given their babies a bath every night, getting soaked to the skin. A lifetime earlier, she and I had played in the stream next to our house, catching tadpoles and damming the water with pebbles, twigs and mud, getting soaked to the skin.
My sister died A. because she capsized B. because she lost her kayak C. because she lost hope D. from the intake of too much sea water E. from exhaustion F. in panic G. in peace
My sister died because A. the kayak rental owner did not have a motorboat for emergencies B. the kayak rental owner told her and her partner to phone the local police C. it was the weekend and the police were short-staffed D. there was no coast guard E. there were no helicopters F. the passengers on the regular ferry services did not notice the torchlight from her partner’s mobile as he moved it in circles above his head until the battery was flat G. the coast guard of the neighbouring country arrived too late
My sister was found A. 5 hours after the storm began B. 10 hours after the storm began C. 16 hours after the storm began
My sister was found A. near the coast B. 15 km away C. 25 km away, close to the beaches of a small island advertised for family holidays
My sister’s partner was rescued after clinging to his kayak A. for 5 hours B. for 10 hours C. for 15 hours
My sister and her partner were found A. near each other B. in separate locations
My sister’s partner was taken A. to his hotel B. to a local hospital C. to a hospital on an island in the neighbouring country
My sister’s partner A. was only slightly injured B. had nerve damage to one hand C. would make a complete physical recovery D. would never fully recover
My sister’s partner had A. no phone numbers for her family B. no phone numbers for his children C. to wait for his mobile to dry out in a bag of uncooked rice before he could get any phone numbers D. to use someone else’s mobile E. to use a pay phone
My sister’s partner was visited in hospital A. by his children B. by his Consul General C. by an ambulance chaser
After my sister and her partner were found, the kayak rental owner contacted the helpline of the Department of Foreign Affairs of their home country A. to report the accident B. to inform them of the death and injury C. to request compensation for the lost kayak
My parents were notified A. later than the Department of Foreign Affairs B. later than local and international news media
Several months after my sister’s funeral her partner A. returned to the country where the accident had happened, to complete the photography commission that had originally taken him there B. visited the kayak rental owner C. undertook another kayaking trip by himself along the same coast D. started a new relationship
My sister’s partner died A. 6 months after the storm B. 12 months after the storm C. 15 months to the day after the storm
My sister’s partner died A. on Saturday 12th B. on Sunday 13th
My sister’s partner died A. of a massive heart attack B. of a broken heart C. of heart strain caused by the accident D. of congenital heart disease
My sister and her partner are A. buried in the same cemetery B. buried near each other in the same cemetery C. not buried in the same cemetery
My sister’s cat A. never slept on her bed B. stayed on my sister’s bed in the empty house for several months after her death, fed by neighbours C. did not die the following summer
At my sister’s funeral I met a distraught young man she had supported with therapy sessions. ‘But where did your sister die?’ he asked. ‘Where? What is the name of the town? The place?’ When I tried to explain, he did not understand. Could not.
On a scrap of paper in the archive is written I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher is without. We scramble in the drought of information held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet under for underlying conditions. Black. Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck with the full weight of a man in blue. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds. In extremis I can’t breathe gives way to asphyxiation, to giving up this world, and then mama, called to, a call to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say their names, white silence equals violence, the violence of again, a militarized police force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever contract keep us social compel us now to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out to repair the future. There’s an umbrella by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather that’s here. I say weather but I mean a form of governing that deals out death and names it living. I say weather but I mean a November that won’t be held off. This time nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm that’s storming because what’s taken matters.