Samuel Getachew

Samuel Getachew is a 16-year-old poet, activist, and organizer from Oakland, California. He is the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Champion, and is the 2019 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. His poetry has been featured by NPR, KQED, KTVU, and more, and his writing can be found published in The New York Times and The Guardian. He serves as the youngest member of American Eagle’s AExME Youth Council, and is currently a senior at Oakland Technical High School.

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by Samuel Getachew

After Yujane Chen.

plane takeoff
11:15 am
washington, dc, dulles airport

5000 feet above the ground
steadily climbing
i think about the idea of flight
how poetic it is to defy gravity
to be close enough to heaven that you can almost grasp it
how it is so beautiful as a concept
when it is not ripping people apart
how 500 mph above the clouds is the only way i’m allowed to see my family
flying, always

perhaps that is why i’ve always loved planes
corny movies on low quality screens
bruno mars playing through a tinny pair of free earbuds
how a foreign country or an airplane is the only place i can sleep in front of strangers

and i think about how birds only fly so far when they migrate, or escape the cold
as though we are coming here to stay

or perhaps
to flee

and i find it fascinating
how i am most at home in the sky
everywhere and nowhere all at once
between two polar opposites
between my home and the home of my ancestors
how this midpoint is where i belong
how i am an argument between the clouds

we cheat death
chase time and dance through time zones as if to say
“i dare you to take an hour away from me.”
only we could have figured out a way to outrun the sun

i look at my mother slowly relax as she grows nearer to her mother and remember
that for the immigrant
homeland is a process
that i am what i will abandon once again
who i am
who i am born of
and my muscles relax one by one

i feel my grandmother’s blood coursing through my veins
and i realize that my strength is not enough
my strength
is nothing compared to the woman that raised my mother
feel generations of women in my family with fire in their eyes and feel that fire blaze in my own soul
everything i know about courage
i learned from my mother
who refused to acknowledge fear and braved the world without question
everything i know about resilience
i learned from the woman who raised eight children alone in a country that did not want to allow her to do it

to think
that this sky is the only thing left between my grandmother and i
to think
this sky thought it could survive being the only thing between my grandmother and i
to think
this sky thought it could survive my grandmother and i

we turn cartwheels through the sky and dare to call ourselves immortal
we dare
to call this migration a homecoming and not a departure
we dare to call this migration a repentance and not a repetition of our sins
to be here
in the sky
smiling with all our bones
to come home