We were supposed to be doomed, says Ma, searched out, collected, scraped off the tongue of the world and maybe flung out to the stars, but then the stars were too clean, and their brave beauty the poets sang became avenues, beaches and pleasure domes, a kaleidoscope of dream-cities, no place for dumping. So then we were meant to be starved out and stamped on and burned. I remember that part, a bit. Ma carried us under her arms and said: Not a sound. Now sorting old pipes into piles in our rooftop squat I tell Sissy, the miracle is, so many of us were doomed and then undoomed. Sissy snorts and wipes dark snot on her arm, she says you can’t be undoomed, just doomed, and doom is forever, she says we can’t know what we used to have, she says we scuttled like roaches and shed our languages like vestigial wings and lugged our rough baggage of dirt into Scavenger Town. She tells me to stop yammering and work, there’s junk to the ceiling, and Ma can still whip us although we’re six years old and have breasts. Rotten soap dribbles out of a broken bottle and scalds my knee: I keep the pain private, the way I’ll always keep the idea of undoomed. Undoomed goes sideways. It finds the cracks. It’s not afraid to stink. It’s out on the roof at night, toe-lively, taunting searchlights. It’s Ma when she comes home gun-strapped and tired and kicks back the door and stands bulky and eye-bright so proud of her junk and her girls and says: Look at this mess.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013). Her poetry, short fiction and reviews have appeared in a number of places, including Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, and Clarkesworld Magazine. She is Nonfiction and Poetry Editor for Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts, and blogs at sofiasamatar.blogspot.com. She says:
In some ways, this poem is a companion piece to my poem “The Year of Disasters,” which was published in Bull Spec and reprinted in the anthology The Moment of Change. Putting it simply, “The Year of Disasters” was about the trauma of colonization. “Undoomed” is a more of a post-traumatic poem. As such, it strives to move beyond despair — to open a space for what may not have been saved, but isn’t completely destroyed either.
Illustration by Walter Crane is Neptuns Pferde (1893) and is in the public domain.