Listen—if I've learned anything from men, it's that their tongues are bare and motherless, lapping the breast of brawn they mistake for a masculine God. Too young, I've earned the word behead in my mother tongue— سر قلم کرنا How young? She, named for light, was twenty-seven. My hunger for fresh language carries me closer to violent shores, gravel voices. Once before Fajr I cracked a date pit between my teeth, tilted the sharp half into a lover's mouth. I tested the crimson I was sure seethed beneath his, every man's, skin. You're like a furnace, he'd whisper, dry against my sweat-laced back. It's true I dream of hands hot around my throat, the finger marks I saw fading grime-green against [ ]'s. No one has blued me, but still I wake afraid, keen until the complex dogs bark back. How to fathom it, my grandfather alive now longer than our new-bloom nation. پاک meaning pure. Land of the Pious, pigless and pissed-upon. Partition a moment un-begun, a dirge without end. I sing its songs. I marry its men. I, like my mother, wait to be bent to better congruities. اسلام means submission. Oh, I submit to any merciful creature, angle ready to deify the eden beneath any child-swollen feet. My faith in God inevitable as an oil spill, childhood slick with skybound yammering, questions and confessions hurled against the slapbrush ceiling. In '47 did they say بِسمِ اللہِ before un-bloating wombs, lifting the never-born like alms to the All-Seeing? I know nothing of God's plan or the invasive empires of devotion, gardens I waste away wanting. I fell heir to my father's hands, anguish, eyes— the crimes of man beget the crimes of man.
Copyright © 2022 by Sarah Ghazal Ali.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Sarah Ghazal Ali is the author of Theophanies, selected as the Editors’ Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award, and forthcoming with Alice James Books in January 2024. A 2022 Djanikian Scholar, her poems appear in POETRY, American Poetry Review, Pleiades, the Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is a Stadler Fellow in Literary Editing at Bucknell University and poetry editor for West Branch. Find her at sarahgali.com.
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