The Sand Diviner
by Sofia Samatar
Close by, the sound of vessels full of water.
He smiled. The winking woman pinched his chin. At home he found his father chewing on a fistful of blood.
The sand diviner said: You are a city with five gates. A clear glow distracted him: a lamp moved from one tent to another, oil curling in the dark.
The woman snapped her fingers. Her diseased eyes flashed. You are a city. He was seventeen years old.
At home his brother seized him on the doorstep, hoarse with tears. Sea-crows dallied in the crimson air.
Five gates. All of them closed.
The earth is like a grape floating on water. Where the water withdrew, there are the cultivated lands. Some, like the Eternal Isles, whose inhabitants till the soil with horns, can only be reached by chance.
Such caution always, a rigor amounting to passion.
Aisha said: It's as if you'd made an enemy of sleep.
The insight amazed him,
And his fate answered: Pestilence and war.
She said: I paint the future on glass dishes. When these dishes are placed before a fire, time shows all its colors.
She said: You will smell saffron. You will never know the answer. You will string words on a necklace. You will live.
And his fate answered: War.
He said: Save my books.
He said: I will look upon the end of the world without blinking.
Aisha's yawning ghost
She blinks, but not for him.
Nailed to his couch
Sofia Samatar is an American of Somali and Swiss-German Mennonite background. She has lived in Egypt and South Sudan, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she specializes in twentieth-century Egyptian and Sudanese literatures. Her poetry is forthcoming in Bull Spec and the anthology The Moment of Change, and her debut novel, A Stranger in Olondria, will be published by Small Beer Press in 2012.
Photography: Lonely Hands, by Riccardo Cuppini.