A Map of Lost Things: On Family, Grief, and the Meaning of Home
“A body always returns to the place that shaped it.”
When I was in the fourth grade in Portland, we spent three months studying the Chinook salmon, the Oregon state fish. Our unit culminated in a class field trip to a small creek off the Columbia River Gorge. At Eagle Creek, a small basin where the Columbia River runs into the Pacific, the Chinook salmon comes to spawn, having crossed thousands of miles of sea in a journey that takes many years. When the female salmon finds its way back to the same estuary of her birth, she will lay anywhere from 3,000 to 14,000 eggs before dying.
Where are you from?
The day after her funeral, my mother and I sat on the couch holding hands. “This was never supposed to be home,” she said through her tears. “But Ayan is here. How can we ever leave?” We buried my sister and we put down roots.
We are our own country
Spend your American dollars here!
Where are you from
Jamila Osman is a Somali writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Toast, Boaat Press, Tinderbox, The Establishment, and Pacific Standard, among other places. She is a public school teacher, and facilitates poetry workshops for incarcerated youth.
More by this author
“Writing these letters is my way of laying siege to the silences that I have learned to harbor.”
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I felt my mom’s grip tighten around my hand as dozens surged across the Rio Grande, the water waist-high. Adults held children in their arms or carried them in rebozos across their backs. We watched as the Border Patrol agents caught and detained some people while dozens more ran past.