We sip Arabic coffee and warm our faces
by the oven, which glares at us with its black snout.
The watch cools on my wrist. I am swung open.
Scrupulous, this listening to the meter of time.
One hears everything here, where the landscape
is a clean knife, slicing the mute—just a cat
wiping its face, roofs with snow for weeks, ice
falling from fir trees like books pushed off a shelf.
The mind evades me. It flees into flesh, seeks
peace in bread, lentils, pear wine. My animal self
purrs in my head, waits for the I to dissolve with a you.
We study the cracking of eggshells against glass bowls,
exchange words like shampoo, nuclear waste, missile.
Tsvetaeva on the wall: she was happy living as a clock.
We lock the doors. Our feet are washed, we feel safe.
Nobody refrigerates secrets in the rustling of tinfoil.
Nobody enters the garden, where the willow sprouts.
Red and alien like foreigners, her catkins surprise us.
Self-Portrait as Wounded Doe of Artemis
I wake up
pollarded by desire
to see jawbreakers city-scuttling,
to rage among halva wrappers,
across the night-womb.
I need to assuage this fury
at my center:
poppies tether me
to the soil, while on my forehead
the ghost of horns
blisters into scurs:
myrrh, orange blossom, lamb
kebab. All I have now
is naked, rubies
rotting my head—
I am the worst
girl I can be,
galloping, an invisible screech:
inside my body’s
meadow, a herd
of selves soughs
to expose itself.
Fur and itch—
under my dress of rods
hot and ready to pierce
into Zeus—but he has
lonelied this city
now, so I perforate
his trembling cats, the elders.
Split me. Yes,
once I was frail
with holy, a handful
of pistachio shells
my heel—now I’m too much
to handle, a rocking
sound, an un-wine-dark
pooling around me.
And the pale hands that sink
into my hindlimbs
pluck a kalimba:
a colossal chirr.
I am fingered like dirt,
a hothouse of plums—
and I break open
like the country I come from.
from Operation Cyclone
Listen: let me tell you
of how old I was when I learned
of the cyclone; of how barbed wire
threshed into me its damp
thorns like lost photographs of my father’s camera
strapped to his white bones—
he was an apparition, silent in the mirror, before
he fled to Herat, then Iran—
and hid somewhere,
I imagine, in pehran-e-tumban,
maybe behind the shrubs on a hill,
as now, on Facetime,
I see him pixelated on
a mattress in the country I am trying to rewind
to make it, at last, truly
mine—my project is to say
fuck, to keep up with the news,
my kneecaps pressed
to masjid carpet, against church pews,
or on toilet tiles, my god
whittled down to love
pushing into my mouth. Day after day
I shiver on crushed, scintillating pills,
hands cupped against my lips—
sometimes I don’t know
whether I’m praying
or begging to be gagged
dedicated to the gallant
mujahidin fighters rolls down
the original cut of the saturated
last scene of Rambo III. The blonde light
moves in your eye. These fat, white letters in
the desert cry for no one. Imagine
sand lining each actor’s pockets, sand lining
the cutlery drawer, sand grains on 35 mm film
depicting a well-oiled Stallone in wife-
and headband, victimized by the Soviets and saved
by the mujahedeen. I did not, said Joanne Herring,
the bombshell blonde, feline
in her fangs, create al-Qaeda; I cannot
predict the future. Southern Belle. Star of Pompeii. Helen
of Troy. What, do you think,
does she know of torture? How wedges of lime,
lemon, and wild vine accelerate the decomposition
of bodies, erode the stench?
A man I loved once called me his sexy little terrorist.
Sand-digger. Camel-hoe. Still, I searched his
mouth for a profligate
myth, the softness of cosmos. Even when
we don’t sing what we mean
the body continues its riot; desire
the war horse blazing its chariot, burning a hole
through the mind. The incorrigible mind.
The mind that marvels
and sobs. I did not, she said. I cannot predict
the future. Darling. Is this what they mean
when they say it was an inside job?