Grief Takes the Head

Mama says ‘change your name and run
when a man puts his hands on you,

when he shows you how quickly he’d break your bones
and leave your front door.’

She admits wanting to stick a knife into the centre of her chest
while I am folding the laundry.

I watch her fall into sleep at night then hide the sharpest knives in another cupboard.

She told me about a woman back home in the village
who adorned herself with jewellery,
then waited patiently for the soldiers.

Surely they wouldn’t want her when they could take the gold
and make themselves rich.

But they took turns and then laughed at her attempts.
She could not touch her skin the first night.

Mama whispers, ‘don’t act brave when they come.
Don’t open your door. Change your name.
Run.’

Left Behind

Khadra is sure that he’s hiding a new wife.

She holds her breath for his return,
feels the same joy when the phone rings.

She is convinced that he misses her,
that this leaving business was all a cruel joke,
a way to ease her into submission.

He touched her belly before he left.
Her womb had no space for the living.

Death gathered and then it became her job to mourn
the missing weight of the body.

He came through the door and she had no strength
for a gentle ‘hello’ and ‘where have you been?’

Only an anger that had been waiting
to escape her body for weeks.

‘Where is the other one?’ she screamed.
‘Do you make her wait?

Is she giving you the son and the daughter that you wanted?
Are you going to leave me here alone?’

She grabbed everything hard and sharp in sight to throw,
everything she could to teach him how much blood
can leave a body without warning.

He called her a bitch and a good-for-nothing
and then left.

She woke the entire family to ask,
‘Has he married again? He left, didn’t he?
He left.’


Amaal Said is a member of the Barbican Young Poets and Burn After Reading collectives. Her work explores the idea of home, womanhood and what war has meant for her family. She is a 19 year-old Danish-born Somali living in London.