Sarah Ghazal Ali

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.

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photo of Sarah Ghazal Ali

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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Vol. 51/ No. 5

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Scanlon

The American Poetry Review is dedicated to reaching a worldwide audience with a diverse array of the best contemporary poetry and literary prose. APR also aims to expand the audience interested in poetry and literature, and to provide authors, especially poets, with a far-reaching forum in which to present their work.

APR has continued uninterrupted publication of The American Poetry Review since 1972, and has included the work of over 1,500 writers, among whom there are nine Nobel Prize laureates and thirty-three Pulitzer Prize winners.

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