What I Wish, Instead

by S. J. Ghaus

I spoke peach to you, Mama-jaan, on a summer morning
in the kitchen. When my hands buzzed
with anxiety, I said ripe flush fruits
and you: fuzzy, pit, orange yellow.
I said, not begging.
You considered the word, and opened
your palms: out bloomed Karachi, city of dust,
seagulls, alligators, ocean. But this was California,
where drought had brought the lawn
to its golden knees. I said sugar-syrup, soft meat.
You blushed, and snapped shut your hands.
We come from flowers, you said.
I considered your face, your cheeks stuffed
and effulgent with June and Saturday.
On the other side of the blinds grew cannas, lemons,
dusty miller, pomegranate, Damascus rose,
Karachi mogra. But on our side, a quasar. Between
us, a conversation and compass needle spinning.
I opened my mouth: I don’t know how to find
the north star in all this fragrance
and juice, I don’t know how
to lick my fingers without poisoning
the plate.
You gave me the knife.
Asked me to find the pale day moon. You said, I’m certain.
You said, the crescent drips south on the horizon.
I know only the peach blossom against you.
Between us rises a plate of fruit.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes