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The Leaving

To enter America, she stole 

the Atlantic, enough to make

a path to carry children across.

Every mile of sediment, clay 

she plied to statues. Her brothers 

now monuments in her mind.

On her back, I slept a journey. 

She whispered, Leave 

our language behind
, afraid 

it would become blood

on my tongue. Not knowing, 

in our new land, 

feet never dried. 

Half-breed turned hemlock.

My mother, my rope 

through the sea, my vine. 

Memory a changeling

from one day to another.

A Nigerian proverb

that when you lose your bridge,

climb down 

the mountain. I took 

my mother’s feet and became

the leaving never the shore. 

I arrived on my mother’s back

language’s orphan,

a two-citizen child with no country.

Still wake homesick with no home

to ill towards, listening

for what English does 

to my blood.
    • Listen: Hafizah Geter reciting The Leaving
Hafizah Geter

Hafizah Geter

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New YorkerTin HouseNarrative MagazineGulf CoastBoston ReviewLos Angeles Review of Books ...