Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Threa Almontaser
Placed at your feet means you will inherit a large amount of shoes that aren’t your size.
Walking into one fully garbed means you will drive someone dear to you out of your life.
There’s a burkini ban in Nice and it’s over a hundred degrees, but women strip only their shoes. Some sit in the waves like ocean litter—glossy black bags tossed in and left to soak. I can’t find my sandals. Nothing in this dream is my size. Even the water wraps too tight. Up to my throat in river, dark as venom I want to suck in my lungs, lick the cool bottom. I don’t care about the poison because I’m thirsty, because I’m already sick from the doubt. Someone I lost long ago paddles over, presses an apricot to my mouth. I taste a truce. Its juice drips down their fingers. To sink would be so easy.
Slicing the rotten bits while a baboon pats henna in your hair means your family will be notified of your missing body.
One that grows a mouth and tries to kiss your cheeks four times means you’ll forget your mother’s name and then you won’t remember she was ever your mother.
I’m dream-ghost, phantasmal, falling through floors from sighing. My mother says I’ve been MIA for days. The cops take lazy notes, don’t remember our names. I’m sitting right beside them. There’s a baboon with talking hands. It signs the word cry, trails a wrinkled finger down my mother’s cheek. Both know the language of grief well. The TV is on but nobody watches. My mother is hysterical. The baboon is by the cops, plucking their guns like bugs. The house is a rotting fruit. The anchorman tells no one listening, breaking news: we are all transplants in the wrong body. Too soon I’m smoke swallowed by the sky, nowhere.
Found napping in your purse means you’ll find your younger self trekking through a botanical garden, searching for an apology.
A tail plucked and pinned to your headscarf means an uncle will beg you to marry his son, bring him across the ocean where he won’t go hungry.
I can’t stop eating, even the spines—sharp down my throat, tongue-blood. I’ve stopped apologizing with intention. I get myself a triple cheeseburger, bacon this time. Very American. Because that’s what I am now, right? Tripping over familiar shadows on an abandoned road, light-headed from the shisha and the pork, thinking headlights look holy from afar. How easy to make a thing all wrong. Most of my cousins are dying. The littlest one leads me by the hand to a cave. Inside, I find our famished ancestors cooking beside orange tatters of heat. In their circle, a fox, her body ready for the fire.
Photograph of Threa Almontaser by Jawaher Ali.