Hanna Ali

Hanna Ali is a PhD candidate in SOAS where she specialises in African Identity; a theme that features heavily in her creative writing. A former child refugee and a full-time citizen-of-the-world, her writings are concerned with unpacking what it means to be lost. She was recently short listed for the London Short Story Prize 2016.  www.hannaali.com  @HannaAli




I fell in love

With the space

In between his thoughts

The homes I re-built

In the gap of his pause

This man I have carried

In my mind and under

My breath, humming

His calls for revolution as often as

Calls for prayer, precise

Brown eyes blackened by the sight

Of death and dying, mourning turns

To moulding body parts rotting in the sun

Wilting like flowers plucked by its root

Children dripping in crayon blood

Learning to point to where it hurts

Before the alphabet

Young girls forced to use their sex

As grenades, throwing themselves from buildings

Instead of inviting demons

Between their legs

The stench of death lingering in earlobes

And buried deep into bellybuttons

Floating in the wombs

Of young mothers

Free-falling down

Every occupied mountain

Whose people still remind the

Earth that they shall not be moved

Hoping that humanity can fall

In love with the space in between

Their dreams and limbs

By carrying their dead close to

Their knees, kneeling

At every call to prayer, wishing that

A mother’s home can be re-built

In the gap of her cries that

Firstborn, only sixteen

Whose forehead carried

The burden of his father’s sorrow

Blown to pieces like a puzzle

Will return in the form of hope

Moaning under the breath

Of a wounded city

That died long before my mother

Was born for me





Two weeks ago he opened his mouth

Whilst leaning back to let the rain

Pound eagerly into his throat

Tasting the city, he said


Last night my soul came out of its hiding place and

Settled into his right earlobe

Love sounds just like rain, he said


The day I got married

My father crawled into the crease of my eyelid

Competing with stubborn tears for recognition

He licked the inside of my eyelids

It tasted like oodkac and canjeero

If I stop blinking

He might starve


I gave myself away today



I saw my future husband today in a petrol station seven miles from my house. He was filling up the 2007 Hyundai Sedan his wife is still embarrassed about. But that makes him hold on to it even more. He doesn’t know it yet, but when he comes home tonight and opens the door to the smell of that house that suffocates him, he will enter the bed with his cold toes first and try to grope his wife for affection or attention (it no longer matters which one). She will shriek much louder than she had expected to and blurt out that she no longer wants him. The toddler next door will stir in bed and ask to be taken to the bathroom. The baby in her womb releasing nausea into the air. He will then put the same sweat-filled socks back on, get dressed and head down the hallway. He’ll look back at the sitting room one last time as the man of the house. This is what his father must have looked like (he was the little toddler in the bathroom, being taught to pee like a man by his mother). Into the night he’ll stumble into the nearest bar, desperate for liquor-filled soft thighs, where I, reeking of grief and sex, will be waiting with the too-tight dress and a face painted on that says I am exotic and for the taking. This is what my mother must have looked like, broken women feast on broken homes. This will be our love story.




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