Portrait of This Country
Kiss someone. God will rat
you out. He’ll deliver a dream
to your mom at midnight where she learns
what you’re up to, awakened
with prophetic visions of your sins.
She will bust your door in a rain
of spark spittle, fireballs.
This would never have happened if we hadn’t
come to this unholy country.
This country blamed for every failure,
clash for freedom. But new land
doesn’t change what has been set.
Nasibak yaseebak. Your book is already written,
thread-thin soul chosen especially for you.
STAY ALERT: on campus, picture
your spinal cord shot, scattered
barbells, eyelids blood scruffed,
smelling like jitters, singed sulphur.
You speed walk grasping
a bread-knife some nights. Glance behind
buildings every six seconds, hijab
a lighthouse, fulgent white flash.
Pretend to read signs, tie your shoe in case
you spot the dull heat in another
man’s hand. You are sweat-itchy, drunk
on fright, always ready to rabbit-kick
away from anywhere. Then a cousin,
sharp-slick whiz, hexing smile. Killed
at nineteen, a hit-and-run on his own
front yard. One more mother stands quiet
by a window, too afraid to move.
Each fajr, she turns the radio dial
as if searching for a certain song—
a medium scanning for the dead.
Gnawed ripe, breath-starved, throbbing
with albatross: they are rough husks
hauling their bellies through crowds
at groceries, ATM lines, waiting to become
another dark absence, bleeding
hub. All of them still plagued by the uncle
in Yemen who never made it back
from the market, ten years missing.
A neighbor’s kid singing his last tune
on the school bus. Her daughter
kidnapped by the night. Yet all still agree,
This would never have happened, O
this country ruined our children
their ruin is our ruin this country
is our children
is our country
To celebrate National Poetry Month we are again presenting an April Celebration: 30 Poets/30 Presses (#ArmchairBookFair21), a feature we initiated last year to help promote new releases whose publicity opportunities were thwarted due to the pandemic. Please join us every day for new poetry from the presses that sustain us.
Threa Almontaser is the author of the poetry collection, The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press) selected by Harryette Mullen for the 2020 Walt Whitman Award from The Academy of American Poets. She is the recipient of awards from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright program, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA and TESOL certification from North Carolina State University. https://www.threawrites.com/
Winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, selected by Harryette Mullen
“The spirit of Whitman lives in these poems that sing and celebrate a vibrant, rebellious body with all its physical and spiritual entanglements. Formally and linguistically diverse, these bold, defiant declarations of ‘reckless’ embodiment acknowledge the self’s nesting identities, proclaiming the individual's intricate relations to others, the one in the many and the many in the one. Ultimately, they ask how to belong to others without losing oneself, how to be faithful to oneself without forsaking others. Exuberant dialogues incorporate communities of known and unknown interlocutors along with translations of the Yemeni poet Abdullah Al-Baradouni.”
—Harryette Mullen, judge’s statement for the Walt Whitman Award