“Distant Relatives” by Anne Moraa

Hello?
Hi-
No, I’m here.
I can hear you just-
Can you hear me?
Oh.
How is-
No, no, you go.

he chases distance like it is oxygen.
home suffocates as often as it heals.

he chased it by drowning his ears with sounds made of thrashing.
he chased it by sleeping all day and waking only at night
and roasting whole chickens, a soldier portioning rations.
you can make even your bedroom devoid of home
if you try hard enough.

he chased it by bleaching his teeth
and growing his hair and grinding his fingers into wires
until they were callused and unfeeling. he chased it by always falling
out of love and refusing to hide the stray blonde hairs caught
between the sink and the bathtub.

he chased it by flying over miles and miles on ash
clouds and tripping on kaleidoscopes and dreaming
dreaming of soft tongues and soft skins and soft hearts and soft
fruits that ripen precisely on time, instead of worms burrowing
by the hairy seed and hairy flesh that gets caught in your teeth.

he chased it by keeping his phone a brick,
heavy in his pocket so you can never
drag him back. he chased it by keeping his voice down
and shoulders broad, by being a man, if never a boy. He chased it
and chased it and it hid behind his reflection. It was afraid

that it would kill him if he caught it,
that he would have nothing to live for.

Um, no, we’re fine.
Mom’s good, so is the baby.
You know, same old same old.
You? Hope it’s going well.
Oh really, it’s that hot?
It’s so cold here.
We should switch, lol.
Yes. I say lol now.

Anyway…

Am I home

if I don’t know the way
to my grandmother’s
grave, only seventy three kilometers away?

if my brother, the Canadian,
who is her husband
as is custom, carrying
the name of the man she loved, a name familiar
to her (unlike mine)
doesn’t either?

if when I die,
Ũhoro waku?
will be the first words I hear
and I will be chased away
because I cannot answer back?

if we do not meet at all because she does
not need words like heaven?

She has home.

Oh, did you know?
Pluto is no longer a planet.
It was voted out.
It may be voted back in again.
I think it should be —

Panthalassa sounds like us
wide vowels and a rolling ocean
broken apart by inevitable drift,
entire continents adrift, so even stars
are different there.
Only our skin reminds us
of each other. That, and our wide noses
and our thick lips and their bridge
built across our backs, our knees and palms
callused from soil once ours, digging like cut
shards. The scars are now birthmarks.

My friend,
(who pretends, for her own sake, that you are not lost
if you chose to leave) said you called her
sister when you met. I hope I will recognise you too,
brother.

Please, when we meet, remind me to teach you
how to make oil from hard nuts, roast matooke in embers,
and you will teach me how to farm with fire.

Where is this going?
I don’t know
I just want to tell you my thoughts
About, you know,
Clouds and planets and stars,
I don’t know.
Like when we were kids.
Okay, yeah…
Talk soon.


Anne Moraa is a writer, editor, and performer. She recently co-wrote and performed in the critically acclaimed stage-play, “Too Early for Birds: The Brazen Edition”. An Amplify Fellow and founding member of Jalada Africa, her writing can be read in Jalada, KikeTele, Bakwa, Brainstorm, Short Story Day Africa among other publications. She has completed Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and, having just completed the inaugural Mawazo Novel Writing Fellowship, is at work completing her first novel. Twitter: @annemoraa