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Poetry The Filth issue

Eulogy for Racehorses

By Raven Leilani

My dead owe money and I too will die
in debt, arrested in the state of repayment
I have learned to call love.
Someone was always looking for my father,
and occasionally my mother would answer the door,
a knife tucked under her breast.
My father loved horses, svelte bay foals
already inured to the sound of gunfire.
His dead were all animals who knew how to run.
They did not care to finish anything.
It is time to tell the children
there were no queens, no kings,
only cassava farmers and criminals.
They should know their lineage
as a kind of lawlessness.
I don’t want to know any more people
who knew my father. I do not care
to finish anything. Only beginnings are true,
wanton single cells and the hair along a man’s arm
and a burgeoning sensitivity to the height of his sleeves.
It’s the endings that are false,
my father home from the war,
spine jeweled in shrapnel,
speaking German in his sleep.
The language comes to me
whenever a man helps me into my coat,
or lifts me into his lap,
the soft possession of my tongue
a kind of promise my dead
will never be finished with me.

 

Raven Leilani is a writer who lives in New York. Her debut novel, Luster, received the Dylan Thomas Prize and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.