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17 March 2022

autopsy by Asmaa Jama

Wasafiri is proud to publish the shortlisted works of the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. These poems, essays, and short stories detail a range of emotions and experiences, produced by skilled emerging writers from all over the globe. In this rhythmic, haunting poem, Asmaa Jama considers the body of their grandfather, mourning and celebrating his life, and meditating on the way family members love and lose each other. The 2022 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open until 30 June. You can enter the prize and read more about it here.
at the end, my grandfather is somehow still together, bones and loose flesh, splayed viscerain a plane seat, he arrives at our home like a decorated war vet, except he has only survived himself, except no nation now wants him, except he has only battled against the tide and has lost every time, except he is missing all of his hair and most of his teeth  and when i see him i collapse into my own shadow, and our house becomes filled withbodies again for the funeral   except this time, i reconstruct his image, i hand over my packaged skin, my viscera, and my grandfather takes an almost alive shape  and we attend the funeral together, already there is oil being spilt into the ground, which is just the zaytun’s way of mourning him, and after eating pickled chillies, we drink until our insides cool   at dawn this time i perform his autopsy, i place my hand into the palace of his skin, and find, in its lines, the intestines, that have swollen into small galaxies, pregnant lengths  and i write them odes, i write them fragile odes, somehow spilling ink onto his body, somehow pressing words, like chosen, and once-loved  and the word for forgiveness and the word for blessing remain the same, and there is a slow rain that falls over his body, which is really the earth washing him, as i tuck him away like he is spilt taffeta, and my hands are rippling  and then i go to dig at the earth until it at last opens, and then i wrap him in cloth, and then we press our foreheads to his ground, which is everywhere, and later the clouds part  and of course this is a false body, and of course it dissipates as i fold him, leaving only wet cotton, leaving only myself performing empty ceremonies, hollow gestures, hollow language burnt up and out  and all my syllables are half-torn by grief, and my prayer returns to me, asking to be sewn together to be made more coherent things, except i have no utterances for god only gestures  i raise my palm to my chest, i place a finger to my head, and my ocular bone, and all the places, that ripple and turn water  i want for better things, for peace, i want for smaller things, for a semblance of a gravestone, for one more missed call and the sound of his voice, for misbegotten camel hide  i ask again for his solid body, for malachite strong fingers, for a will to continue, and even my grandfather tired of my trope, tired of returning in a wearisome body, sends smaller creatures, green amphibians, dark silent millipedes, at last a single goldfish  which is his way of asking for rest, which is his way for asking for peace, for an end to my constant surveillance, and the uttering of his name, in my mouth, which is his way of saying you are a stranger, hardly a grandchild  after you crossed the water, i lost your face, pale photograph in a well 
Image of author Asmaa Jama Asmaa Jama is a Danish-born Somali artist, poet and co-founder of Dhaqan Collective, a feminist art collective. They have been published in print and online in places like Ambit, ANMLY and The Good Journal. Asmaa’s work has been translated into French, Swahili, Somali, Spanish and Portuguese. Most recently they were shortlisted for the Brunel African Poetry Prize and longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. Asmaa is an inaugural alumni of Obsidian Foundation, and a Cave Canem 'Star Shine and Clay' Fellow.      Cover photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash
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