Family Affair

they say we are a family that is good at death / i make a decision to hold

a seminar on how to live / i schedule this party for my uncles on the first


day of spring / my dead uncles play hooky with the afterlife

slipping out of their graves while the ground unthaws / the earth still soft


i could never play hooky myself / all my childhood my mother kept her

hand wrapped around my wrist / a lightweight shackle that held me


down all nights / a weight my mother gifted to me for my own sake

the taste of iron swirling in the mouth henceforth / there was no option

she had no other option / used a coconut shard to scoop out the pulp of the night.


my dead uncles arrive to the seminar an hour late / they hover above

the chairs in my backyard / my living uncles arrive after the dead ones

and the reunion is a big family affair / my uncles grabbing one another


grabbing me / grabbing all the seminar pamphlets out of my hands

papers with titles like / interactions with the police / explaining health

complications to your doctor / drugs and you?


my uncles hand me back this polite literature / they insist upon

an idea that in the afterlife / there is no time for posturing over


anything other than perhaps a garden / someone you love deeply

the truth of it they insist / is that most of living you never really learn


the police come through / as they always do / breaking the warmth

of the reunion / my uncles are squished together around a table playing dominos


the police lean over and ask to play / the police lean over to claim

that Someone has called about the noise / the police are leaning over


what noise, i ask. half of the people here are dead. / my dead uncles

do not speak in the presence of force / is that not what you wanted

this is the living of not knowing and wanting more / a scoop of survival at


the cost of pride / now that the police have arrived the party

must end / my dead uncles / must return to the earth /

before night / when the ground hardens / and although the party


starts late / it ends late / if not as late as we wanted / but i still

i feel so loved / I hold all my uncles together / they hold me

in the spring we get used to the sun / staying for long


my favourite void is from the valley of lateness / i love lateness /

i love it like i love my uncles / my late uncles / my late late uncles


both living and dead / oh, how i love / the suggestion that the earth

can extend / that there will always be room for more time.

Bibliographical info

Faith Arkorful, "Family Affair". Copyright @ 2019 by Faith Arkoful. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: CBC Books (, 2019)


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