On a newly reframed black & white portrait
of you, sitting on a bedside table— lengths
of your hijab stretches to the marbled floor
Incense smoke trailblazing the still air,
twirls into the shape of a man falling out of the sky.
Your unwrinkled face before you had me
Before 2013 and loss and we are sorry
Before innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
Before please, accept our not really heartfelt condolences
& my father, breaking down in the middle of conversations
Now that I stare at your lips—
I wonder what they would have said about starless skies
& how they spread rumors of God napping, while His
creations yank their faiths into the night’s eye;
of whole bodies, I do not mean you & I do, I promise
becoming moons that disappear at dawn to never be seen again.
A girl from our pathology class calls to ask
how best memory’s eye could be shut out of one’s head
No loss ever truly remains lost forever, & I try
to say something else but all my mouth finds is the music
water makes of itself before drowning a man
This is not the first time I’ve tried to not make this poem
about you. I’ve unwritten this poem a zillion time
& in the middle of every line, you’re always there
Dancing yourself, unclothed, into my hands
Dog-earing the center page of a magazine at a train station
a boy tells me of a time
he washed his tongue clean of his father
& did not feel the world gather in his breastbone.
the way his mouth opens to say father reminds me
of how memory ricochet off the loop of time
before falling into itself
Later, I would run my stiffened fingers across photographs
— eternities of memories refusing to be graved,
Half-picking pulses off our mannequin smiles
Half-prying into the swollen darkness inside an uphill church
Imagine myself kneeing the floor all night
Curving my ears away from clouds of amen
Streaming out of my bruised kneecaps
As the skin on my elbows unfold into maps
of countries where a father’s homecoming is seen as homage to miracles
I’m afraid of talking to boys about distant fathers at train stations
Or in my sleep or basketball courts or anywhere that looks like you
I’m at the barbershop to cut something that isn’t my hair
& your hands are in this poem as overgrown vineyards
& your face is in every hair on the floor
& your face is in every mirror on the wall
& I’m afraid someone will find me trying not to look at you
Afraid I’ll try to say your name & it won’t be on my tongue
Shell-shocked about whose aching voice to clad its presence in,
the news of her departure crept under every fallen roof in the city.
We opened our bodies to grief & her father held
a passport photograph of her to his ears like a cell phone.
His eyes swept through the soul of every breaking news
carrying a girl, found breathing with tributes in her mouth.
Somewhere, in preparation for his departure, a boy
tried gauging the earth’s weight on his body.
He was found a heartbeat away from heaven’s gate.
In my bedroom, candlelight stretches the walls into white skies
A girl riding clouds as dark as my thoughts sings me lullabies
Where every melody is a river bending towards forgiveness
The moon mocks me as I try to stitch her face to my third eye
My tongue pulverizes as she wriggles my neck to translate words
like anxiety & melancholy into rainbows, in my mother’s language.
Outside, I hear hands lifting in prayers to end the departures
of teenagers fading from life in their heads. I stretch the blinds
like an amen in my grandfather’s mouth and find
a starry sky holding out bright tomorrows between its teeth.