“Refracted Futures” by Alexis Teyie

Refracted futures_ Alexis Teyie


Even at 19, he had a wavering hairline.
Playing wise, he said to me, Embrace fully fledged lies,

especially those that had escaped you in your youth.
They were the shamelessly iridescent ones, that knew

the compromises you had made, the urgency with
which you had pursued brilliance, the baggage beneath

the future you scratched out, even the shape you took on
under pressure. This tentative now, all its questions

are the surviving bramble that broke my glances and
pushed my smiles off kilter. Wololo this savage past,

I cut myself trying to hold it at bay. I move in
and out of time. Of course, I know what I am doing.

The problem is that we haven’t mastered memory.
Playing wise, I said to him, Look, this is your way:

You use my manners against me—even those you gave me.
This is your way. The you that was always elsewhere, is

it in the future? Is it marking all the motions
of our desperate disappearance, the cold beckon?

This side, animated emptiness keeps the children
occupied; we quietly hoard expired rations.

Shifting frames, hoping clues are coded in the labels;
Even in Chinese, they are unexplained abscesses.

The empty pastures, baba. And the fragile gestures?
These postures are broken simulations of a past

we thought could last. What happens if we forget how to
remember? News breaks in time with your heart beat, as do

promises made across press microphones. Over there,
are tomb inscriptions the most significant pop art?

We have this joke: the first female president’s headstone
irrevocably altered the artistic landscape:

That’s funny because she’s a woman. See see see?
Her husband probably wrote it; but wait, isn’t there

a name for that in the future? Here, I just call it
loving your jailer—but everything is better there, right?

It has to be. The horizon is adjustable.
All us kids, here and now, we know what we’re doing, no?


Alexis Teyie (@alexteyie) is a 21 year old Kenyan studying History at Amherst College. She hoards poems and hopes her own poetry and speculative fiction will be worth saving someday.