Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Maya Salameh






I split the fridge’s innards for carrot cake and think about 4:45pm the reek of gasoline
he looks at me like the back of my mother’s Corolla Christ
opher Columbus has been decapitated in Boston the summer is still new and
stubborn he tells me about his sisters and he really does love them the sky full of three
pits on the floor he can buy them branded backpacks with the Adobe check in a
recession I can only promise mine diagnoses my brother keeps ask
ing for Roblox gift cards such beautiful words but none I can eat I am nineteen
and I’ve just finished Giovanni’s Room and I believe grief is endless I cobble
together the pen amputated under my mattress let the wax m
end my throat I am running out of diaphragm this at least feels consensual in
my parents’ kitchen there is good bread and the Brillos with the smooth ink and I
tuck my spoon into a bed of frost
ing think about guavas and clouds and wine kiss like the next sixty days won’t be an
anaphora in my throat when I am drunk afterwards we keep intermittently
messaging flirting as perfunctory exercise each of us proving our teeth I watch July
in the rearview calligraphy smeared on the roof and if I squint I am irredeem
able and perfect and our highway is littered with green stalks




                             &                                                                                    you

                      were                                                                                       the noun

                that slicked                                                                                       my pages

           with sweat.                                                                                               you astride

         the elliptical                                                                                              like the stretch

    of the letter ن. noon.                                                                              noun. nu:un. I marry

 my thumb to your mouth. ن. you                                                  swallow caffeine pills، pin

  me with purple irises. your blue-tinted body. what a relief to be a terrified woman. I

         write the noon 40 times. the sun scribes me onto stone tablets. it was noon &

                               you were the noun that slicked my pages with sweat.




so I sit in my room, I do useless things. – I wait for the demise of the state, rewatch
Vampire Diaries. at breakfast I order pancakes riddled with blueberries, snap the
plastic knife into ribs. I take long walks & think about nothing, moths, which
apparently also come from cocoons. America is butterflies’ – ugly cousin, & the
officers switch lines in front of us, badges glinting like chrysalis. if given
             the chance I’d ruin a man like a monument, use my nails to amend calligraphy
into him. I drink guava juice, fasten the gossamer mask.
             in our absence I put on the windows, stars, a cluster of empty parks. –             I
watch the Crusaders in the playground. — I retch America into the sink. I wear silk. –
my uncle works in a hospital. – the neighbors disfigure a top 40 song next door & men
who look like mine watch other men like the officer does. thus the officer is replicated
in the liquor store, & the law – preserves itself in aisle seven next to cherries in a jar. –
– – a country is desires, appetite, ears, hands, mouth. – the hospital I was born in
             was called Zion. –    the virus plays with our mouths, Drake fills the kitchen, &
the whole house smells like dancing. the doctors – never warn you about the poem
between your legs. my phone doesn’t recognize me anymore. — for the girls  with the
want flooding the room, pinning them to their bed. – I pick my entrails from the
backseat – the officer says community – who will speak of me to strangers = a torso + a
wing + a mouth. & my blood is everywhere, & cheap, even in my feet. — I want
someone to plasma me to sleep.


Photograph of Maya Salameh by Clara Bradley.

Maya Salameh is a poet fellow of the William Male Foundation and a 2016 National Student Poet, America's highest honor for youth poets. She is the winner of the 2022 Etel Adnan Prize, through which her debut poetry collection, How to Make an Algorithm in the Microwave, will be published in 2022. Her poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and The Brooklyn Review, among others. Maya is the author of rooh(Paper Nautilus Press, 2020). More from this author →