No tengo dolor. it’s not mine.
un dolor de la ciudad— nothing much
doing here, so
screw it to the sticking place:

Laura Bush took a stand against cancer.
Who the fuck is for cancer?
The cells anonymous,
downer girls, a tissue scaring.

We had a fancy dress party
everyone came in full face.
You in apron, when it should have been
me at the cake.

When I was a girl I’d imagine
there was a pain threshold a grief threshold,
at some point it all feels the same
the way everything under zero feels cold.
to know the numbers, unbearable.

Mothers, others unbearable
other bodies wither, we age inside out.
Yes, there goes a foot, a liver.
look here, you can see within her
and organflowers blooming.

I only mention the other woman
because I knew her body was leaving:
it was how I met the incomplete.
my mother’s is a slow fail, an always there.
but hers seemed improbable.
it wasn’t a loss I anticipated,
maybe there’s the difference.
it wasn’t one I held.




for Jane, a year later

Nothing to do with her,
I think there is no moving on.
This loss becomes the body
as an extra finger,
sometimes dexterous, sometimes dangling.
You could cloak it:
Anne Boleyn started the craze
of droopy sleeves. Only she knew
what hung beneath, limp and new

Now we are both unmoved in new cities.
I’ve seen other bodies wither, lusted after.
An encased woman’s virus loops spools
through her blood. I wanted her capacity:
hands flaying, precise over drafting table,
pauses acute as a tourniquet. I want to see
her pale eyes reflect something not orange.
She asked if I had a sister; I lost her to the halfway.
Yes to the twinning, the sticking, the stench

Or was it your hands drifting,
spoon to candle, pen to wood?
A bed and petite bottles of shampoo,
second hand socks and journal pages.
We’ve come to. Listen, I’d give you an out
or an over, but I’ve only spun through.
I’d glisten for a sister, but
I haven’t, and my handprint
won’t take



Elizabeth Senja Spackman has spent the last five years in Rwanda and Kenya, working with artists, and teaching classes and workshops at the National University of Rwanda, the Kigali Institute of Education, as well as at Ishyo Art Centre, the Goethe- Kigali and others. She initially came to Rwanda on a Fulbright grant and worked with Odile Gakire Katese on translating the Book of Life. She worked with a collective of female Rwandan artists to create the original theatre piece Sky Like Sky, which toured to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. Subsequently, she has worked with Amizero Kompagnie, creating the dance-poetry collaborations Frontières- Between you and me, and run, run, run. Her most recent work as playwright and performer with Amizero is the theatre piece Radio Play, which has toured to festivals in seven countries and will perform in Cairo in September 2016.

Her curiosity about East Africa’s arts scene was sparked by winning the SLS Poetry Prize in 2009, which sent her to Nairobi and Lamu, Kenya. Elizabeth has an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, and has worked intensively with Rhodessa Jones’s Project: Theatre for Incarcerated Women in the prisons of San Francisco, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Paris. Her poetry and prose can be found in Guernica, Warscapes, JournalKwani?, Fence Magazine, and Post Road, among other places.