by Hera Naguib


Into hot oil, I toss the gooey okra.
Sizzling thumbs, I describe to Mother

over the phone, thicker here, extra.
She recalls how, once, I glared

into the pool’s water, convinced
my gaze alone could tease awake

its sleepy azure. Little Narcissus,
she laughs, I toppled over, splashed

into the pool’s airless placenta
—its memory choked my sleep

nights in a row—But it was for okra,
she recollects, soured with pomegranate

seeds and my reward for a swim
that I sat again at the pool's ledge.

This time, my floaties billowed
up from my arms. My palms clutched

at the bars. I whimpered each time
my father waded closer to pull me in—

his reaching limbs roused the water.
Its protean shadows boomed

as if untrammeled by anything else,
least of all me. Such assurance,

the water held. Such surrender,
I remember, to its own murk

and wallow, I’ve seen only once—
on those long hours when Mother

prepared okra. In her fingers,
each pod, sliced open, a gondola

of slime; the dried arils she lined in,
like stowaways eluding the night—


back to University & College Poetry Prizes