by Tjawangwa Dema
In the beginning
the chickens have no cause to fear us,
we are all of us far too young to worry.
My sister works well
at the daily chore of keeping everyone alive
while I run circles around the ankles of girls
who’ve bled like her,
who sit and peel potatoes,
turning wood into fire
time making bellows of their lungs.
They dunk whole chickens in vats of boiling water,
pluck their feathers by hand.
I could never bring myself to watch,
to hold the bird by its neck,
to use its weight against its will to live.
Naomi could swing and sing
the same tune
she used to
send us off to sleep.
My back turned to where I know I’m headed.
“Naomi,” from THE CARELESS SEAMSTRESS by Tjawangwa Dema. Copyright © 2019 by Tjawangwa Dema. Used by permission of University of Nebraska.