Yallah habibti, move your tongue like the sea
easy. My big sister teaches me to ululate, rolls
her tongue in waves. Dips thin fingers inside
my mouth to pull out mine, stretches it long
and pinches the tip. Watch, we move tongues
like this. I see the walls of our father’s house
collapse and we swim free leleleleleleleleleee
On the ferry to Tangier I shriek across the sea.
Practice how to sound like a real woman. Old
aunties grab my buttocks, smush their breasts
against my back and sing leleleleleleleleleleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Don’t cover your mouth habibti! Only women
on the upper deck, only sea. We move tongues
like this to tell the waves stay back, tell men
stay back, tell the dead stay gone, tell runaway
wives stay gone. They turn me into wisteria
woman, limbs wrapped around poles and thighs
as they guide me. Throw back your head, epiglottis
to the breeze. Salt air burns my hot membranes,
scratches at the tight knots of my chords.
All my life I was told
women must swallow sand
unless we are sounding
Copyright © 2018 by Seema Yasmin. This poem originally appeared in Foundry. Used with permission of the poet.
with some help from Ahmad
I wanna write lyrical, but all I got is magical.
My book needs a poem talkin bout I remember when
Something more autobiographical
Mi familia wanted to assimilate, nothing radical,
Each month was a struggle to pay our rent
With food stamps, so dust collects on the magical.
Each month it got a little less civil
Isolation is a learned defense
When all you wanna do is write lyrical.
None of us escaped being a criminal
Of the state, institutionalized when
They found out all we had was magical.
White room is white room, it’s all statistical—
Our calendars were divided by Sundays spent
In visiting hours. Cold metal chairs deny the lyrical.
I keep my genes in the sharp light of the celestial.
My history writes itself in sheets across my veins.
My parents believed in prayer, I believed in magical
Well, at least I believed in curses, biblical
Or not, I believed in sharp fists,
Beat myself into lyrical.
But we were each born into this, anger so cosmical
Or so I thought, I wore ten chokers and a chain
Couldn’t see any significance, anger is magical.
Fists to scissors to drugs to pills to fists again
Did you know a poem can be both mythical and archeological?
I ignore the cataphysical, and I anoint my own clavicle.
Copyright © 2021 by Suzi F. Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.
—Translation by William George Aston
This poem is in the public domain.
I will swing my lasso of headlights
across your front porch,
let it drop like a rope of knotted light
at your feet.
While I put the car in park,
you will tie and tighten the loop
of light around your waist —
and I will be there with the other end
wrapped three times
around my hips horned with loneliness.
Reel me in across the glow-throbbing sea
of greenthread, bluestem prickly poppy,
the white inflorescence of yucca bells,
up the dust-lit stairs into your arms.
If you say to me, This is not your new house
but I am your new home,
I will enter the door of your throat,
hang my last lariat in the hallway,
build my altar of best books on your bedside table,
turn the lamp on and off, on and off, on and off.
I will lie down in you.
Eat my meals at the red table of your heart.
Each steaming bowl will be, Just right.
I will eat it all up,
break all your chairs to pieces.
If I try running off into the deep-purpling scrub brush,
you will remind me,
There is nowhere to go if you are already here,
and pat your hand on your lap lighted
by the topazion lux of the moon through the window,
say, Here, Love, sit here — when I do,
I will say, And here I still am.
Until then, Where are you? What is your address?
I am hurting. I am riding the night
on a full tank of gas and my headlights
are reaching out for something.
“If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert” originally appeared in The New York Times Magazine (April 1, 2021). Used with permission of the poet.
The person you are trying
is not accepting. Is not
at this time. Please
again. The person
you are trying is not
in service. Please check
that you have. This
is your call. Your
person is not accepting.
Your person is this
number. You have
not correctly. Your person
is a recording. Again later
at this time. Not accepting.
Copyright © 2020 by Martha Collins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.