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About this poet

Hafizah Geter was born in Zaria, Nigeria, and received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and her MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Geter’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Narrative Magazine, The New Yorker, and Tin House, among others. A Cave Canem fellow and the recipient of a 2012 Amy Award from Poets & Writers, Geter serves on the board of VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts and works as an editor at Little A and Day One from Amazon Publishing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Naming Ceremony

My father, who spends most of his days painting

pictures, says coming home to my mother

stroking out was like walking in on an affair.

Bending, he demonstrates how

an aneurism hugged my mother

to her knees. A man always

at his easel, my father tries to draw clarity

from obfuscation. Every retelling:

bluer, then redder. His memory

a primary color saturating

the ears of whomever he can will

to listen. Over and over, my father draws a loss

so big it is itself an inception, a story

he knows better than the day

his daughters were born.

His heart is strong.

He has the receipts:

a scar between his breasts

that I’ve cleaned like a smudge on a window.

Over and over, my father draws me

a picture of the crescent moon

fishooking her hospital room.

He loses the story for the pleasure

of finding it.

We lived in this

maze for years. I can tell you

our best days weren’t glad.

He’s a history

whittled down to this

single story. In my version,

when her mind blew,

boys were playing Beirut,

crushing cans of Pabst

against their shoulders.

White balls flicked into solo cups.

The night turning

like the wheels of a far away gurney.

In their basements, I was an animal. Not yet

knowing how loss finds its way to you,

or that sometimes when you think you are playing

someone else is dead.

These are the ways in which we come

to name things.

Copyright © 2017 by Hafizah Geter. “Naming Ceremony” originally appeared in Court Green. Reprinted with permission of the author.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Hafizah Geter. “Naming Ceremony” originally appeared in Court Green. Reprinted with permission of the author.

 

Hafizah Geter

Hafizah Geter

Hafizah Geter was born in Zaria, Nigeria, and received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and her MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago.

by this poet

poem

Hafizah, when you sleep, a storm suddenly opens its jaw like that ancient dog your neighbors used to beat in front of God and everybody. The wasps duel like prophets and hide their nests in your clothes. Every day your eyes are barefoot. A child could kick the door of you in. So what if you are some kind of Icarus

poem

All the children
my sister has left

kneeling in a garden.
It is an orange spider

crushed between their teeth,
becoming heirs

to each other’s hungers.
We know better than to have

daughters now.
Today is not a crown

it is a forceps, the sunken
flower of my

poem

Five winters in a row, my father knuckles

the trunk of his backyard pine

like he’s testing a watermelon.

He scolds smooth patches

where bark won’t grow,

breaks branches

to find them hollow.

He inhales deeply

and the pine tree has lost

even its scent. He grieves