Safia Elhillo


Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House 2021), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee (receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.” Safia’s work appears in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her work has been translated into several languages, and commissioned by Under Armour, Cuyana, and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland. Source

Self-Portrait With No Flag

i pledge allegiance to my

homies      to my mother’s

small & cool palms     to 

the gap between my brother’s

two front teeth      & to 

my grandmother’s good brown

hands       good strong brown

hands gathering my bare feet

in her lap


i pledge allegiance    to the

group text      i pledge allegiance

to laughter & to all the boys 

i have a crush on      i pledge

allegiance to my spearmint plant

to my split ends      to my grandfather’s

brain & gray left eye


i come from two failed countries

& i give them back      i pledge

allegiance to no land    no border

cut by force to draw blood    i pledge

allegiance to no government    no 

collection of white men carving up

the map with their pens


i choose the table at the waffle house

with all my loved ones crowded

into the booth     i choose the shining

dark of our faces through a thin sheet

of smoke     glowing dark of our faces

slick under layers of sweat     i choose

the world we make with our living

refusing to be unmade by what surrounds

us      i choose us gathered at the lakeside

the light glinting off the water & our 

laughing teeth     & along the living

dark of our hair    & this is my only country





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:







Joy & Praise

Poetic Form


Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times