Presenting “The Death of Araweilo,” an original poem by Sofia Samatar in celebration of National Poetry Month, acquired for Tor.com by editor Liz Gorinsky.
Tor.com is celebrating National Poetry Month by featuring science fiction and fantasy poetry from a variety of SFF authors. You’ll find classic works, hidden gems, and new commissions featured on the site throughout the month. Check out the Poetry Month index for more poems!
The Death of Araweilo
Araweilo the queen is dead wicked queen Araweilo.
Sing she is dead.
Rejoice she is dead cruel Araweilo the foe of men.
She is dead, the queen of impossible tasks who said: Men climb Mil-Milac or else you die, climb Mil-Milac the mountain of glass.
Araweilo laughed and her teeth were of glass like the mountain her manicured nails were of glass and the clasps of her slippers her cell phone her lipstick her car.
Glass, all of glass was Araweilo the enemy of men.
Araweilo shaved her head wrote poetry chewed qaat.
Araweilo smoked on the balcony of her villa gave radio interviews appeared on television in a white dress.
Chimes off-camera when she crossed her legs.
It’s good to be here.
Flash. Flash. Twin vortices in her black sunglasses.
At home Araweilo played music loud and screamed.
She went to Europe to see a specialist. I have a pain you see doctor here.
Right here. Right here. Tap-tap of glass finger on glass chest. Araweilo was broken but she did not appear to be broken.
Araweilo was unreasonable. Who can climb a glass mountain? This is like asking to change the nature of men and women.
At the top of the mountain, she said, there is a tree, bring me the seeds of this tree, bring them stuck to the bare sides of your camels.
Araweilo had a terrarium. She was going to grow the seeds or maybe mix them in her imported flavored yogurt.
That would be just like Araweilo. She had a gym in her villa. She claimed to be allergic to half the foods in the country. She stood on her balcony and watched the men toil up the mountain through a telescope and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Araweilo could turn her eyelids inside out.
She often quoted Das Kapital.
She knew all the songs in West Side Story.
Once when she was angry she smashed a mirror and stamped on the pieces.
Once she tried to run down a lover with her car.
I have a pain you see doctor here. The doctor said she was willful and self-indulgent like most deracinated natives. The doctor said the last thing you need is pills. He said try something your own people do, the women I mean. He suggested weaving.
Araweilo said in my experience doctor it’s more beneficial to send men up glass mountains looking for seeds.
She flounced out of the office swinging her Louis Vuitton bag.
Outside it was raining. Rain soothes the heart even far from home.
Araweilo walked in the rain, feeling broken. She bought a can of juice from a vending machine and cut her tongue on purpose. Juice and blood, bloodsucking Araweilo. She closed her eyes. If you suck all your blood out through your tongue, can you die?
If the desert gets hot enough, will the sand turn to glass?
If you read all the books, will you learn how to live?
If you live long enough, will you learn how to be?
Why does everyone hate me?
Why do I hate them?
Where is God?
These are the unanswered questions of Araweilo.
Araweilo went home. The men and camels were just coming down from the mountain. A magician had advised the men to make the camels roll in mud. The camels plodded heavy and slow, ghost animals with seeds stuck fast in the mud on their sides, and Araweilo was beaten.
Araweilo was outwitted, the men were saved. Such rejoicing! Araweilo could hear the singing from inside her huge Italian-built villa. She could hear them singing of ugly, beaten, worthless Araweilo. There was an especially hilarious song about her genitals.
Araweilo turned up the sound on the TV.
While the men were hunting seeds on the mountain, there had been seven years of peace.
The magician from the mountain was a hero. Years later, he got Araweilo’s daughter pregnant. The daughter bore a son.
I have a pain you see doctor here.
When Araweilo’s grandson was grown, the magician gave him a spear and said, Strike Araweilo! If she cries Tolai it will mean she is really a man, and you will need help. If she cries Allah ba’ai she is a woman, and she will die.
The boy went into his grandmother’s room.
Araweilo was oiling her hair. She was cutting her corns. She was smoking her huge Egyptian nargileh. She was letting her pet rat run up and down her arm. She was nuzzling her lover’s throat. She was testing a knife on her palm. She was on the phone.
Araweilo hair feet arm throat palm
So many pieces. Like many bad women she was only made of glass.
Araweilo the queen is dead, they say you can visit her grave at Elaayo.
Women lay green branches on it men throw stones.