Open Hands Poem by Tishani Doshi

Open Hands

Rating: 4.0

In Nairobi, an albino boy followed me everywhere
Peering at me from behind cupboards and trees,
Chortling with glee: Hello fine!
Here is space. Here is space.

It is open and large and dark here
And I feel open and large and dark.

I’m moving into a scene already imagined,
A life already waiting under the topaz sky,
Under the blue lacquered trees where the dust
Is spiralling up to hide it.

The boy teaches me names of animals.
They are spread out and running under us:
Giraffe, lion, hippopotamus — Twiga, simba, kiboko.

What if it isn’t true that we inherit our homes?
It’s lovely here isn’t, the boy says.
It’s lovely.

So we must make meanings of things:
A carcass of a jackal in a baobab tree,
A man’s fingers pushing up the straps of your maroon dress,
A low wood-beamed room full of misgivings.

The boy holds me in his lanolin arms,
Looks at me as though I were a sheet of glass,
A single antelope facing a row of acacias,
An unending ruinous landscape.

It’s the hardest thing to do —
To take him aside, feel his pigmentless skin —
Explain how there’s so much space
I’ve lost myself.

How I cannot be this woman
Looking to a foreign sky for the day,
Disappeared again, leaving only a dim glow
In my hands to remember it by.

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