Faith Arkorful: Two Poems
Am I Late To the Party or Something Because I Am in Perfect Working Order
but even just hearing the word hair makes me nauseous.
I have never had to relax my hair but my scalp feels
aflame all the same. I know every remedy and have
dipped a finger in every oil.
All my knowledge is not enough to stop dead men
from reaching out for a handful. On this head,
wildflowers grow in surplus. Dead men with soft hair
reach out and try to pluck at my head for flowers to
lay at their graves. I imagine this to be the only reason
because simple curiosity would be too childish. Mom
tells me that the truth of the matter is that the hands of
most strangers are laced in saltwater
and your hair will fall out if you let them touch.
She tells me to burn every shed hair or I’ll fall victim
to the obyeah that is other folk. If my hair is bramble
then let it be a burning bush. Today is all I have.
I’ve become a mean old dog with no teeth looking
for someone to bite. They have competitions for
ugly dogs but that seems paradoxical. The idea makes me
dig my finger into my gums.
The idea makes me rip my cuticles off. When I get like
this my sister comes to save me. She is not afraid
of dead men. I am so sick of your shit, she says in
a voice time hasn’t met the opportunity to crack.
She pulls at my hair like a pastor pulling the recently
baptized back above the surface. No one is too keen
to drown when facing the strength of her glory.
She does this for me every day. Her hair is tough.
She’s some sort of saviour, maybe the second coming.
The way things are going, it would
be rude to not stick around to see what’s next.
Migrant Worker as Temporary Illusionist
Yesterday night my uncle returned
from the farm last night which in itself is
a miracle. Some men fall from trees and
never get back up. I watch generations
grow and die in the harvest season.
Uncle returns each year a little
weaker and just as poor. Cheap apples
don’t cure the road. He brings a barrel of fruit
and my mother gives him my old phone.
Beetles flee from flame and I am a roach
shaking away from the light,
digging into a rotten apple,
eating the core and all the seeds.
For the best six months of the year Canada
steals my uncle away to dig around in the earth for
a hidden secret. One night I was born and
ever since I have had the smaller power
to argue about the price in which I am willing to
hurt. I do not use this shaky power because
I am probably a coward.
Real hurt is found in the constant reaching
upwards to pick fruit. This reaching shreds
lineages like a game of tug-of-war. We play
for keeps, for life. I do not use this shaky power
because I do not know how to use it. I do not
use this shaky power and all the apples go
bad before I can make anything out of them.
Faith Arkorful has had her work published in Hobart, Arc Poetry Magazine, Canthius, and The Puritan, amongst other places. Her poem "Vacation" was recently selected by Hoa Nguyen for inclusion in the Best Canadian Poetry in English 2018 anthology. She was born in Toronto, where she still resides.