As contributors and editors for ISSUE Magazine, we were used to creating individually, by ourselves, but our long conversations about missing something-other-than-home brought Dhiyanah Hassan, Syar S. Alia and I together in a collaborative poem. Inspired by the weaving of our stories, we decided to write a poem in turns — each taking a single line that, when pulled apart, would create three individual poems, all of our own.
To accompany our poem(s), we also wrote individual pieces to accompany our intertwined words. My piece is called Absent Coffins and can be read below.
This remains one of my favourite works ever.
Our collaborative poem can be heard in full — and in its pieces, each read by its respective author — here:
Our entire project can be experienced here.
This was supposed to be home. This was supposed to be familiar. This was supposed to be kind.
But then I remember that home was neither familiar nor kind, and that this home – this turgid, restless clay – has never been, never will be accepting. This earth does not embrace, but it shuffles, reshuffles into silence, swallows want and spits out blood. This earth does not suffer optimistic fools and their lofty dreams of flight.
“Not till God made men of some other metal than earth,” Beatrice had said in a sharp panic, trying to sidestep fate. But I am not. I am the grey slippery clumps you hold in your hand and mold to your will, my cool wetness betraying nothing. You touch me with bare hands and I surprise you with seeping warmth on your fingers, like a promise burning on the edges.
Time weathers me and makes me less willing to breathe.
I had thought to make holes, so that air could come in, so that roots could form freely. I had forgotten that roots burrow inwards, desperate claws hunting for the elements. There is no room for ambition, there is no room for dreams. There is only sunlight and wind and water. There is only life.
A coffin would make things easier. There would be no root digging into my rib, no shard of semiprecious stone piercing the curve of my elbow. That itch would be tolerable if I could just — reach — oh.
But that would be kind, and there is no kindness here.