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Welcome to Words without Borders annual queer issue. From raucous Mexican dives to hushed West African forests, with characters defying official crackdowns in Turkey and embracing new definitions of family in Israel, the work here explores the variety of queer experience around the world.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Preparations for the Voyage to Lampedusa by Octavia McBride-Ahebee

Photograph by Victor Englebert
I tagged him
like a suitcase
in our wedding henna
and the indigo of our gods
so sand and salt water could not erase                     him
using a hand-rolled cone
of discarded plastic
I labeled him in Arabic on his forehead
with the translated love poems of Rumi
riding across the arch of each eyebrow
I braided his eyelashes into a wind rose
to inform a faltering will 
where grace blew the hardest
I pierced his ears with Voltaire’s call 
to give ourselves the gift
             of living well
on the palms of his hands, I rendered
in sloppy English,
the poetry of lorde and knight

between the nervous Dogon masks that dressed his breasts
and the hairy lotus flowers that framed a navel I loved to get lost in

I sung in the double swirl of earth’s only colors
a plea in Italian to be kind

A boat carrying migrants headed to Italy/Photograph by Massimo Sestini


amid the spiraling canals of Sundiata’s praise song
that ran up and down his legs, front and back
I marked the empty spaces with the tattooed kisses
Of his children and a p.o. box leading back to Kolokani
on his stained fingernails I wrote our love dreams
-you know –a quartered-filled belly of lamb and hibiscus,
a muted chest,
feces that is thick and whole and free of the world’s disdain,
a means of stretching our children with ideas -
I wrote this in Bambara because it glows in the dark
because it can lift a diminishing resolve from the clutches
of a cold night desert
and even dance on death’s imminent arrival

in the middle of a beautiful sea that will reject him

This man was travelling on a boat that sank off the
coast of Libya headed for Italy . AFP/Getty Images

disguised as a lullaby
to remind him 
at the moment he is embraced
in a wet, frothy death hug
that this failure is not his
it is not his
it belongs to those who will rescue his body

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