And That Fast, You’re Thinking About Their Bodies

At a rooftop party, you dance near every edge. 
Someone drops a ring in glass, in your head 
the clink of a used bullet, still hot, and that fast 
the rooftop is covered with wires, riflemen, 
and you’re thinking about mutiny, MK-47s, 
two cities clawing at each other’s bruised 
throats while boys try to hold your hips, 
keep dancing. The war is on your hips. 
Your hands. You wear it all over. You wrap 
your hair in it. Pluck it from your eyebrows. 
The rooftop is wide and caring, too rained 
or sometimes incensed, and you never once 
think to be afraid of what could arrow a cloud 
and kill it. You eat volcano rolls, pink pepper 
goat cheese, and the war enters you. You stare 
at Still Life with Flowers and Fruit 
and the glade of roses scream 
war. Here with a doctor and your pregnant 
aunt who hasn’t yet learned English, only speaks 
in war. Friends in Greensboro get picked up 
by bored police, get beat up for no reason, 
and those fists carry war. At a job interview, 
you carve yourself into a white-known shape
and that renaming is a kind of war. 
You take a passport photo, told to smile 
without teeth, the flash a bright war. 
You’re on the other side of mercy
with your meadows and fluffed spillage,
where nights are creamed with saviors. 
Here everyone rests on roofs graduated 
and sung, gazing at a sky that won’t 
bleed them. At the beach, you’re buried 
to the neck, practicing dead, snug in your 
chosen tomb, gulls flittering on all sides, 
waves fleshing closer, and that fast you’re thinking 
of a grubby desert girl who placed small stones 
in her scarf, shook it back and forth,
said, This is what the sea must sound like. 

from The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press, 2021). Copyright © 2021 by Threa Almontaser. Used with permission of the author.