A few things you should know
Whenever I pray,
a dog somewhere dies.
My mother can’t look me in the eyes anymore.
I sleep with my contacts in
and I get sweats at night. I’ve gained six
pounds since December
and I’ve lost four friends and two possible
lovers. I bought two bamboo plants last week
and I’ve lied about six things since Wednesday,
(your haircut looks nice, I’ve watered the plants, I ate
already, I’ve got a test tomorrow, this isn’t your shirt,
I love you). Sometimes I think I’d be better off quiet.
I cheated on two math tests in the last year
and I want to learn how to stop bending
and finally break.
I can never not love
you. I can try as hard
as I want and forever,
but I will never not love
you. You have seared
yourself onto my soul
in permanent marker,
drawn an infinite tattoo
there, harboured like a
stowaway. You’re draining
my vital organs, my survival,
the ships about to crash, full
of water, drowning, and still
I can never not love you.
My aunt miscarried four times
and after each one, she took me to Chinatown
in the city, and we would watch the gloved men gut
fish after fish after fish as if it meant something.
She carried all the ultrasounds for years after,
with names and the expected date of birth scribbled
on the back, and on the train ride home, she’d clutch
the bag of headless fish close to her body,
and softly, rub her finger over the worn leather of her wallet,
where the faint memories of life gathered dust inside.
My uncle used to burn hundreds of matches
on the front porch, and the first time we came home,
he stared at my aunt’s stomach and stumbled backwards,
something immense, something too big to understand, to describe,
quaking inside of him. He stopped burning matches
and started burning flowers, instead.
My aunt carries him too; in the way she walks,
stooped over, with this gentle sorrow pulling her
into the floor like sand.
Salma, May 17th 2003
Laila, November 29th 2006
Sophia, January 4th 2007
Hanna, August 23rd 2011
Four seasons for four daughters;
every day, dawn is the time for grief,
dawn is the moment where my aunt can finally sob
under the weight of the world, a 34 year old Atlas
with a home empty of children, and a body that deemed her unfit;
I have grown into a family of grief,
a life in which mourning and morning mean the same thing.
She said once: I am a shell, and you can hear
the ocean sputter and cough in my bones; I swear,
I would swim, if I wasn’t already sinking.
The sea rejected my aunt more than once,
and in her blank eyes, I am reminded of those Chinatown
fish more and more each day.
He found you crying on the grass
because it hurt to be alone,
and the sting from long ago
still burned, an unhealed cut
in the back of your neck,
each tear that plagued your wild, bright eyes
was the revealing of a secret,
he let you cry into his shoulder,
held your hand when you were scared,
and there was such warmth in his eyes
when he asked if it was so unbearable
to keep breath in your chest,
you clung to him when the world shook
and you couldn’t stay standing,
you want to kiss him only because the night seems dark
and you hope he’ll pour some light in you,
through breathless, feverish contact,
but he doesn’t want to kiss you, only hold you,
he just wants to fight the demons
and your heart swells at the thought,
he is the best thing that has happened to you,
the very best person you’ve known.
the mariana trench is 1580 miles long, 6.8 miles deep
and estimated to be at pressures of 1086 bars
which was over 1000 times the pressure of the air within our lungs
that first time in december.
afterwards, i told you i felt like i was drowning
and in response you recounted an overwrought metaphor about
storms and weathered sailors that you’d read in an old novel once
while i clung to you like a castaway to a piece of driftwood.
every week, another ships sinks to the bottom of the ocean
without so much as a distress signal
and when i told you this you grabbed me just as desperately,
vowing that you’d send the whole coast guard after me if you had to
all while i tapped morse code calls against your sternum
and tried to stay afloat.
in february i wore your presence like a life vest
(if you’re not within arms’ reach, you’ve gone too far)
and learned that at the bottom of the mariana trench there were organisms
which not only thrived but served as hosts so that others might live,
down there in darkness so thick that there was no place for oxygen.
in march i asked you how you managed to keep both of us afloat;
you told me you’d stopped trying weeks ago
and i spent hours listening to your too-large heart crash against your chest
with every laboured breath dragging against the seawater in your lungs
as a reminder that life has a funny way of existing
in places it isn’t meant to.
it’s barely april and i’m still finding myself shipwrecked on your shores
with a regularity that is entirely unsurprising
given the fact that i’m an excellent swimmer but a shit sailor.
i’ll always be afraid of the ocean
but it’s possible that life at the bottom might be tolerable
as long as ‘xenophyophore’ still sounds like a romantic thing to be
and the coast guard never stops searching.
I am hardly a hurricane.
My mother used to be able to solve a Rubik’s cube in a few minutes
without blinking, or so she says, but no one has ever seen her touch one—
not since a little boy in Germany claimed the world record in 1982.
She calls me often because I’m the only one whose willing to pick up
anymore and she retells the riddle of why I am named after
the sky, although I stopped asking her years ago.
I spend most of my 1, 2, 3 in the mornings in that café down
the street, writing answers to questions no one has thought of yet and
ordering more espresso as if the pen in my hand isn’t shaking enough.
It’s common knowledge that I should have been born and raised in
the other hemisphere where my mind’s clockwork
would have made more sense.
He talks about saving me like it is something that can occur,
and I have deceived him for all this time by being an inspiration
when the truth is that I am the eye of a storm and chaos surrounds me.
And I apologize in advance to him because I understand that
one day I will wander off too far in these woods, bleed until I am raw,
and then forget all my reasons to come back again.
I am hardly.
There’s a terrifying
in her chest
like a lonely and desolate house,
to the remnants of
sheltered within its walls.
Filled with decades
and collect dust,
hung in the corners
of the empty rooms
that were never settled.
The windows cry
and moan your name
in near shattering wails.
The wind picks up and shuffle
the words of love,
tossed aside like faded woods
and cloth covered furniture.
The pang that mingles
with the age
and the smell of sun bleached solitude;
an empty house waiting again for its tenant.
“Careless In Our Summer Clothes”
Here is a list of ways
that I have never spent
my summers, stories ripped
from the spines of strangers,
men and women I will never meet.
Their histories haunt me,
seeping slowly like a vine
into my blood,
gentle suffocation death
as I wonder about
who I will be sleeping next to
five years from now.
- We fall in love with each other
over the cracking cement
of empty parking lots.
Grow affection like baby
weeds forcing their way up
from in between sidewalk cracks.
She is small like a daisy
and holds my hand like folding
- Every night is a different
balcony. I slip through black
night skies like a velvet skirt
through a man’s hands.
Siphon joy off the foam
from cold beer bottles, fall into the easy
rhythm of music and free
When the noise dies down,
I slip out the clanging screen door
of a stranger’s home
to smoke a cigarette that tastes
like choked butterflies.
This is a beautiful way to rust.
- There is a child between my arms
held like a love letter I am too afraid
to deliver. I am a mother now.
I rise alongside the sun and try to share
whatever rays I have with my child.
I hope he grows up like a phoenix
bird or a young eagle learning to fly.
I hope he is like his father.
- Last night, we went out dancing.
Me and her, we shook and we shimmied
and we laughed until we fell into
each other, sweaty and tired
and high off nostalgia.
A young man said to me,
above the roar of the music,
You’ve got a beautiful wife.
I know! I replied. She is.
I am an old man now. Seventy-two.
The luckiest old man there is.
These are the summers of the lives
I’ve never lived, the postcards
we lose amongst ticket stubs
and loose change
while we are making love
to the shadows.
I have never had a summer love.
I have never been to a party
so late at night, so packed,
that I forget myself
but learn exactly how alone I am.
My whole life, summer has
been lying underneath
star-studded skies like draped
blankets and wondering about
the dark side of the moon.
Everything I cannot have.
I do not know what it’s like
to be someone’s lover, only that
the ocean and the moon
have both been target practice.
I have always been a yearner.
The tide and crash of my dreams
as they fall in on themselves
keeps me awake far into the night.
I just want learn how to fall asleep.
when you kissed me,
my body gave way
like the lawn chair
in our backyard.
i felt your fingers
slide through my hair
as you untied my bun
and slipped my hair tie
around my wrist.
to make love to me,
or ikea manuals.
your hands smelled
of antibacterial dish soap,
the citrus-fresh of
your lips stopped when
the clothes dryer buzzed.
we spent our lives
in the morning:
we kiss each other
one of us trying
to c o n geal
together, in an attached
we hold each other
the defined curves
now in an amorphous blur.
(maybe we ceased to exist)
we stare into each other;
we are not a culmination,
we cling on to a scarcity of what lingers.