ghazal for a river / for the ache in my mouth

by Laurel Faye

my grandmother was jinn & my grandfather a man / with no belief / but still
here I am / half-real & half-not / holding on / to a country by a thread / still

I open / my mouth a funeral / my teeth janazah wa kafan / all the language
 I’ve picked clean of meaning 
my grammar more important than / my god / his dark hands still

reflected in the river / my eyes / one atlantic / the other jazirah
gold enough / to sneak dua past my lips / blame / my distance / on geography
(I don’t know which makes me / more the stranger) / still- 

born daughter in her used-to-be-body / making muezzin / a verb she can resurrect
a country from
I open / I close / I smear oil & nightfall on my chest & lay still

name my hips for the curve in the Tigris’s passing / pelvis the bomb hollow
mosul / costal of my rib bones / the cartilage in my grandmother’s hands
the inarticulate vocabulary of a body / I hoard / I steal / & hold still 

to my skin / gold only in memory / gold of the Iraq we were / words like picket line
border of our lips
the shallow grave where I lay my language down / mine still

that meagre weapon / where home should be / where I cough up my careful letters /
the stillness

where our rivers lay / & I / the half-daughter / arabiyah unsettled in my anglo mouth
where the salat rages / for a body it can belong to / where it knows
the distance is still

measured out in skin / the length of a river from its source / dredged up
by the slow undulation
of a people in the body / & I / mistaking longing for kinship / the still

fall of footsteps / of silt by the bank / jetsam words I bring back to my grandfather
oil-dark / his low voice saying where is your tongue again? / In my hands, still

Laurel Faye is a queer, Iraqi-American poet from Atlanta. She is the recent winner of the 12th Nazim Hikmet poetry festival prize, in conjunction with Duke University and the Turkish-American association. She was listed as a finalist in both the Atlanta Review’s international poetry contes, as well as Agnes Scott College’s 50th annual writer’s festival. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Sanctuary, the anthology Hasret/Longing, and elsewhere. She is currently and MFA in poetry candidate at the University of Texas, Austin with the New Writer’s Project.