Material Ramifications of Burial Day

This piece sits in such a heavy inspiration and response to Jinjin Xu’s There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife, to the point where the closing lines are her’s. I refract her language to make a space for my brother’s passing, reflecting on the grief I carry as his sister.

In response to Jinjin Xu

               Martyr, the men whisper over your body.
               They pity me, how I cradle my death-taken brother
               in his coffin for hours, how many kisses I give,
               red-eyed and begging to unleash
               unlearned years. A hunger to be reborn,

               how I pricked the cactus fruits, the condition of you dying,
               how unravelled our mother becomes in our blood

               a departed era—no, a fatal age—our father fearful
               and soaking. Fear kept and keeps its youth. Our blood is a sea
               of scorching abandonment accusing your killers, washing cities fresh.

               Our father wakes, wide-eyed, covered in red
               staring at my dress made of your soil & departed flowers.

               Know my grave is yours, my eyes are yours,

I am speaking in tongues, I am spitting out my lungs,
I want to howl your name across the headlines,
carry your body over the threshold of holy

until words are just words and sight is just sight,

nothing worth dying for.

1 The closing lines outdented are from Jinjin Xu’s There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife (2020). Fragments of the poem are also picked out from the book, such as “a hunger to be reborn.”

leena aboutaleb is an Egyptian and Palestinian writer searching for fruiting trees to sleep under. she can be virtually located @na5leh on Twitter.