Family Affair by Faith Arkorful
2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist
Faith Arkorful made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Family Affair.
Alycia Pirmohamed won the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize for Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation, Prairie Storm and Tasbih.
You can read Family Affair below.
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.
Read the other finalists
- Shelter Object by Stephanie Bolster
- The Grolar Bear's Ballad by Catherine Greenwood
- Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation, Prairie Storm and Tasbih by Alycia Primohamed
- You Left Something by Erin Soros
- 12 by Sarah Tsiang
- Caribou in the Anthropocene by Cara Waterfall
About Faith Arkorful
Faith Arkorful has had her work published in Guts, Peach Mag, Prism International, Hobart, Without/pretend, The Puritan and Canthius, among others. She was a semi-finalist in the 2019 92Y Discovery Contest. Faith was born in Toronto, where she still resides.
The winner of the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The remaining finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.