FRUIT

as kin rise to pray in the deepest shade
before each dawn, i ask: what is it about
          a seed shedding itself into
          a seed reborn that makes it
its name? still i wait, as though there is
          no time for question through the
          tired feast we become in this
moonlight before the fast. mama speaks:

كل كل يللا خذ خذ
eat, eat. go on. take, take.
          and i take
          after my father
who used to pull crabapples
          ripe off the trees
          steady-fencing this
morbid crackle of roads

that will never belong
to us. as my mother runs
          her wet fingertips into dates
          beneath the rinse, my father would
say: americans are
         too busy watching good fruit
         wither away.
too busy wrapping their teeth

around the skin of other things
in the evening hours. meanwhile,
          we just gnaw through that. he and i
          take all of our time—
it is the only thing our women ask of us.
          and, again, i ask:
          what makes a brown boy his
name? when does he become

a feast of yes,
a game of eat, eat. take, take. a riddle:
          what color of boy doesn’t eat
          what his mother makes him?
what being could leap
          out of a seed and walk
          upright just long enough
to inhale the dirt that will see him 

a man? here, we get tired of this
script, muddled
          film of hardened juice, and thickened
          erasure; the shedding of
flesh into soil. O how much
          easier can we be to take? 
          another generation passes
into the wake, and mama prays in the moonlight 

before the fast. this is where i come
to learn why a mother gives
          her kin a name that lingers, a name
          that only we can pronounce.
 

This poem first appeared in Up The Staircase Quarterly on February 2nd, 2017. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here. Audio is available in the "Listen" section of the site.

FOR THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND

each day i ask my mother
what we do
                        when we can't fight,
                        and there is no money
left to give. tired, she lifts
                        her eyes from the dishes,
                        her hands up from the bath,
and gives:
                        a gentle laugh,
                        a sigh, we make
                        du’a, we pray

                        for whatever remains
            after the sea rises
to swallow our shore

 

This poem first appeared in Sidekick Lit in November 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

HÅRB (OR ON WAGING WAR IN SPITE OF GOD)

As told by my mother: all good
is holy, while evil finds itself in those
              who do not sleep,
              those whom lie

awake learning to write
                and heed
                and pray;

in me, this wired thing.
My father did all he could
                to be sure

I was birthed with a beating
fist to go with those
                sleepless beasts, my lungs.
                We find—to this day—a book
of versed calligraphy is the prettiest
flesh to make a lamb of.

This is what I will tell my son
when he is beckoned by
                the bully in him,
when his scorn loses
                sight of its prey.

                              —

When piqued, boys be a bone.
Be a tantrum, a cracked tomb

of discipline exorcising itself
into the backs of boys we had
no business putting our fists

inside of. I tried so hard
to find myself in the spines
of the men who wronged me.

                              —

If my son develops a taste for blood,
I will blame it on
                the enemies of my father
                and our ancestors.

One day, he will ask me about the red
                in the river of our name, where
                it turned.

When he does, I will have
                the same answer I did
when my parents told me to hold
                my tongue and cleanse
                my fistful
heart: I do not know what to throw away
when nothing belongs to me
.

This poem first appeared in Wildness on October 18th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here. It was honored with the distinction of Best of the Net for 2017 by Sundress Publications.

AL-BAHR

I have seen death
look like me: bones sprawled
out somewhere between
hazel-coded grains along
the beach of the red
sea’s shore—a palm opened and
a palm closed— body thick as a fist
in waning rose-crimson tides.

still, I’ve never known
a law to rewind a bullet
or a bomb, to unwind
a spine too busy wrapped
around grief. and I am told
how we must learn to speak
with it’s tongue: too mired
        in the end.
do you read?
have you heard?

        I have seen it
all before: the still-growing husk
of mankind’s tomorrow
looks to make itself
a name. I watch men
who don’t—and do— look like me
print its face with my mothers’
graves. I’m incoherent

at this point, but I saw
a boy that could have become
me wash up on a shore.
along another, I watched all
the boys lose a match. I guess,
I’m not putting enough blame

on the child.
        Don’t get me
wrong. I’m just
wondering: can a boy
        find death, and not
        come bringing it
home to show everyone

what he’s found

SERMON (FOR THOSE WHO SURVIVE)

If every day above
ground is blessed,
then when do we sip
a wine that does
not flow from the hungry
crown of our bellies?

Where does this toothless
vineyard lie? The one I can
shake free from, free
of the quake that lets
loose upon what remains
of this curious flesh. I crawl out

of this cage, elbows bloodied &
so fine,
so aged with the sky’s
knees in my back. My throat
flutters, loosens to make space
like a prison emptying its cells
into the earth below
he earth. & here

I am, miles away & leagues
above, watching my cousins drown
in someone else's comfort;
another's desire
for luxury. & here I am, I stay
cursed to watch the lexicon
grow & grow & grow

          & I found god
in every throne I lust,
          I shook
god in every breath
I hushed. & whisper:

I’m king
          so long as I’m able/
I’m good
          so long as I’m feared/
I’m full
          so long as I’m stable/
I’m prey
          so long as I’m
here.

This poem first appeared in Drunk in a Midnight Choir on September 15th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.