I meet Prince in a dream

he is diligently beading a neverending piece of cord             i am making a self-portrait
in watercolor pencils       he studies my drawing         returns to his necklace
your eyes aren’t actually that sad     he murmurs       i can barely make out the words
                 you’re not as tragic as you think                  he holds up a section of cord
louder: does this feel intimate to you          i think he is still asking about the necklace
                 i say something about the sky at night                how it probably started out
the same way      he shakes his head         i am not interested in metaphors for glitter
                 only glitter itself                i think he is upset with me         i arch my portrait’s
right eyebrow      he looks on approvingly                starts putting beads in my hair



abdelhalim hafez wants to see other people

so i choose another
i choose        blue music     blue hookah smoke uncoiling from our mouths           i want him
to know i am not lonely                 i have my ghosts i have my illnesses     i have a mouthful
of half-languages    & blood thick with medication      doctors line up to hear my crooked heart
some weekends i dance         sometimes i go missing      i fry eggplant      i listen to his stories
that are my stories dead boys     burned cities          an ache older than our bodies
our homes that are not our homes      (most days i feel i am walking through water
most days i forget the sound of my own voice)


i can’t go to the party because the whole world hurt my feelings

but i think i am a tough girl because i smoked
my first cigarette & don’t love my boyfriend
i can watch the scurry & crack of a coal
catching flame without thinking to tie up my hair

but isn’t there a song that goes mix me up
with water it quiets down my edges well
anyway there should be


Safia Elhillo is a Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, a journal of black expression. Her work has appeared in publications including Vinyl Poetry, Bird’s Thumb, and Union Station Magazine.