We’re All Made of Lightning is the debut collection by writer and poet Khadro Mohamed, published through We Are Babies Press. The book sees her navigate her connections to Somalia, Egypt, and Aotearoa, and is described as “a love letter to her homeland, her whakapapa, and herself.” It was released in the earlier half of 2022, but it is a collection that has stayed with me ever since. Khadro is a master of imagery, crafting beauty with few words. These images lilt throughout the whole book, representing her love of her culture, religion, family, and friends in snapshots for the reader to digest and connect with. Similarly, we see her pain as a Muslim living in Aotearoa in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shootings depicted in heartbreaking detail. There is space for both within her poems and they are balanced with equal importance. That takes real talent, and it is commendable to see, especially in a poet’s debut. In ‘Tattoo’ Khadro writes: piece together mountains let tiny footprints wander along the skin The poem discusses how the speaker will live on by becoming one with the earth and birth new life. Her skin becomes the mountains that future generations will walk across. Khadro says so much with so little here; not a word is wasted or unneeded, and we see it again and again all throughout the collection. Another instance is in ‘Son’ where she writes: Did you know there are a million & one way to say the word death but only one to say finally the drought has ended This is writing that stays with you long after the book has been shelved, never straying far from your thoughts. It twists celebration and hope into several short lines and reflects the wisdom Khadro weaves throughout the whole collection. In the months since I first read We’re All Made of Lightning, I have returned to this poem the most. Khadro is retrospective in ‘I Watched You Die - A Love Letter to My Old Self.’ “You’re always like this. In a desperate search for scattered islands, just past the horizon where indifference sits and sings,” she writes. No matter your experience or circumstance there’s a familiarity in these words. Isn’t this something we all long for? To have this feeling so neatly described is joyous, even if that endless desire itself is not so. In this, again, Khadro’s talent with words is paramount. The titular poem, ‘Lightning,’ is the second to last poem in the collection. It describes the magic that is in all of us, and how we are all made up of the same things. The poem toys with this idea deliciously, but the following lines are some of my favourites: you are fire made up of smoked plaster and ruin & it’s on your skin that I have burned myself one too many times If this book were fire, I would burn myself on it daily. The words Khadro has crafted together in this collection are magnificent, and it has quickly become a book I return to often. Her sense of wonder and awe for the world around her and her connections to the people in her life are spread throughout this book with a readable ease. Even if some of the subject matter is difficult to read, it is written eloquently and beautifully. If you are new to poetry, or a lifelong reader, I have nothing but the highest recommendations for this book.
We’re All Made of Lightning is available for purchase directly from We Are Babies.