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—fingers opening up a corpse
—a girl crawling into her dead mother
—maggots + blackened decay
—a girl alone in the dark + newborn, dead
—umbilicus, blood, mud
—a sun-headed god wielding a flaming sword
—bithbenia, homeland, droughting
—swamps + farms vomiting black waters + forests falling like the twins of wan
—the sun splitting itself in four
—grand cities crumbling,
yulia, maanka, kalith,
like dreams, or clouds
—a lover with no face
—an army rising in your name +
an army rising against all that you are
—the downfall of the kalrr of bithoen

—look at all they’ve done
—the silence of the gods + the roar of betrayal
—the whetting of swords
—they banish me, and take my eyes, that i may not find the road back again. i will pray no more to the one hundred gods of bithbenia
—boots stomping dry earth
—a blind girl begging strangers to drag her to her mother’s grave, at the edge of the city
—senseless whispers, like flowing water
—mama, mama. how dare you let them go free? they burnt our home to the ground, mama, killed your sons, killed papa, took all we have. i will not even say what they did to me. am i not bleeding? has my husband not been murdered? have you not been called the witch of yulia, derawudin’s daughter? how dare you stay in your grave,
—why are you in my grave, unmoving?



[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Betsy Aoki during our annual Kickstarter.]

Victor Forna is a Sierra Leonean writer based in his country’s capital city Freetown. His short fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, and elsewhere. He is an alumnus of the 2022 AKO Caine Prize Writing Workshop. He tweets @vforna12. For more,
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