Ideology

three girls ago
bloodroot: it was Eid
Al-Adha: a man

I loved shoved
my face into
German reeds

I can still feel his sweat
when I unsleep: the cleave
of his breath-lice

warming chains
of my necklace
I was without people

oh so summerful
I invented my girlhood
I languaged myself

a knife-body
yet all uncles said
I’m badly woven: bad

muslin: say forgiveness
comes easy say freckledirt
buried the faces

of my sisters: lakewarm
& plentiful—
we kiss we touch

we Magdalene each
other it’s true
during the adhan I pulled

down my tights
nylon black like the chador
of my mother

I licked from my yesterlove
the salt licked
real good—to pluck it again

I must whorl ad nauseam
for the addendum
of flesh the soft

sumac, cottonwood hard
as the nipples
he circled

we are singing
it’s spring and God to my song
is unlistening, unlistening

o Maryam o Miriam
o Mary we are undying
we are not gone

are not slayed we are
unslaying—our hand
wields this life

and I ply myself
out come here
between my legs     

come in          all are welcome        who believe

More by Aria Aber

Can You Describe Your Years in Prison?

Over Skype, I try to document my mother’s
bald-shaved youth—she has a surplus in truths,
and science has proven what it had to prove:
every helicopter-screech I dreamed of was my mother’s first.
Rippling my dumb hand, I wake up in childhood’s crypt,
where prayer is keyless as a foreign laugh overheard
and on the Masjid’s cobalt globe a ghost … an angel?
No, no … who am I kidding. When I say God,
what I mean is: I can barely stand to look
at my mother’s face. So, what if I’ve never seen
what she’s seen. I took the shape of her two hundred
and six bones—I did not choose her eyes. Did not
choose to masticate the ash of witness,
her crooked smile disclosing a swarm of flies,
Yes, missiles hailed there, named after ancient gods.
Hera—a word of disputed root—maybe from Erate,
beloved. And because my beloved is not a person
but a place in a headline I point to and avert my gaze,
I can now ask: would I have given up my mother for an alyssum
instead of asylum? Or one glass of water that did not
contain war? Her wound isn’t mine, yet what I needed most
was our roof to collapse on her like earth around stones.
Rain, the hard absence of skin. The silence of it—
no gust in my goddess. No artificial wind.

Ode to My Hair

Exotic, “omg so thick,” a rug, so to speak—
black cortex, I can almost be beautiful
with you. Once, mother snatched
my split ends like newly acquired money
and named them Taliban Beard.
I never wanted this much of anything,
so I scissored you at the scrunchy
and sold you all to the World Wide Web.
In plastic bags, you were shipped
next to different manes, the past
stored in your filaments like fetuses
in formaldehyde, fragrances distending
as if skin of people huddled
into the eyeless belly of a boat at night.
Cut and alone, dark keratin lies cold
in factory halls: congregation of wait,
you’re patient until you too are wanted.
But when my spools stop, and the silence holds—
let them braid you into other heads.
Let them brush you for my funeral.
Let those of you spared on hospital tiles,
picked from lovers’ teeth, and nestled deep
in the vacuum, or shampooed
between dirt and debris in drains, light up.
May you glow with the weight of love
you can only share with what pries
out of yourself. Those stuck to balloons,
left in brushes, escapees taken away to elsewhere—
what is to be said of you? I won’t be gone
until you are. Heavy root
that rots to bloom when I shrink—
stay and conquer the sargasso in my tomb.

Related Poems

Dove, Interrupted

Don’t do that when you are dead like this, I said,
Arguably still squabbling about the word inarguably.
I haunt Versailles, poring through the markets of the medieval.
Mostly meat to be sold there; mutton hangs
Like laundry pinkened on its line.
            And gold!—a chalice with a cure for living in it.
We step over the skirt of an Elizabeth.
Red grapes, a delicacy, each peeled for us—
The vestments of a miniature priest, disrobed.
A sister is an old world sparrow placed in a satin shoe.
The weakling’s saddle is worn down from just too much sad attitude.
No one wants to face the “opaque reality” of herself.
                                                                 For the life of me.
I was made American. You must consider this.
Whatever suffering is insufferable is punishable by perishable.
In Vienne, the rabbit Maurice is at home in the family cage.
I ache for him, his boredom and his solitude.
On suffering and animals, inarguably, they do.
                                                    I miss your heart, my heart.

100 Bells

My sister died. He raped me. They beat me. I fell
to the floor. I didn’t. I knew children,
their smallness. Her corpse. My fingernails.
The softness of my belly, how it could
double over. It was puckered, like children,
ugly when we cry. My sister died
and was revived. Her brain burst
into blood. Father was driving. He fell
asleep. They beat me. I didn’t flinch. I did.
It was the only dance I knew.
It was the kathak. My ankles sang
with 100 bells. The stranger
raped me on the fitted sheet.
I didn’t scream. I did not know
better. I knew better. I did not
live. My father said, I will go to jail
tonight because I will kill you. I said,
She died. It was the kathakali. Only men
were allowed to dance it. I threw
a chair at my mother. I ran from her.
The kitchen. The flyswatter was
a whip. The flyswatter was a flyswatter.
I was thrown into a fire ant bed. I wanted to be
a man. It was summer in Texas and dry.
I burned. It was a snake dance.
He said, Now I’ve seen a Muslim girl
naked. I held him to my chest. I held her
because I didn’t know it would be
the last time. I threw no
punches. I threw a glass box into a wall.
Somebody is always singing. Songs
were not allowed. Mother said,
Dance and the bells will sing with you.
I slithered. Glass beneath my feet. I
locked the door. I did not die. I did
not die. I shaved my head. Until the horns
I knew were there were visible.
Until the doorknob went silent.

Girl Country

“Of the 11 million abandoned children, 90% are girls.”
—Times of India


abandon: verb


in Hindi: Chōra dēnā


1.    to cease support or look after (someone); desert

Indian woman delivers,
abandons baby in plane toilet. 2010

“More than half of India’s billion-plus
population is below age 25.”

2.    give up completely

Seven-day-old baby girl left
abandoned in hospital. 2012

“In India, one in six girls
does not live to see her fifteenth
birthday.”

3. (abandon oneself to) allow oneself to indulge in (a desire or impulse)

Father abandons
baby girl on train. 2012.

“India is a dangerous place
to be a woman.”