Inside the MRI Machine

I am white       where it matters        in front of the
camera     I am an egg             a cobweb          when
my mother calls        me Haloul       I pretend not
to hear                here I am a résumé                 doll
gown of paper            checklist             piss in a cup
I was afraid          of my body                        but not
anymore           now there’s respect              this bitch
pantyless                      humming           louder than
the                    machine            I am white         when
asked to be                   storyboarding             my own
grandmother      into a                         poem           here I am
meet cute           between              egg &           song

Truth

I’m allergic to hair dye and silver. Of the natives,
I love the Aztecs most of all, the way they lit fires
in the gouged chests of men to keep the world spinning.
I’ve seen women eat cotton balls so they wouldn’t eat bread
I will never be as beautiful as the night I danced in a garage,
anorexic, decked in black boots, black sweater, black jeans,
hip-hop music and a girl I didn’t know pulling my hips
to hers. Hunger is hunger. I got drunk one night
and argued with the Pacific. I was twenty. I broke
into the bodies of men like a cartoon burglar. I wasn’t twenty.
In the winter of those years I kept Christmas lights
strung around my bed and argued with the Italian landlady
who lived downstairs about turning the heat off,
and every night I wanted to drink but didn’t.

The Female of the Species

They leave the country with gasping babies and suitcases
full of spices and cassettes. In airports,

they line themselves up like wine bottles.
The new city twinkles beneath an onion moon.

Birds mistake the pebbles of glass on the
black asphalt for bread crumbs.

          *

If I drink, I tell stories about the women I know.
They break dinner plates. They marry impulsively.

When I was a child I watched my aunt throw a halo
of spaghetti at my mother. Now I’m older than they were.

          *

In an old-new year, my cousin shouts ana bint Beirut
at the sleeping houses. She clatters up the stairs.

I never remember to tell her anything. Not the dream
where I can’t yell loud enough for her to stop running.

And the train comes. And the amar layers the stones
like lichen. How the best night of my life was the one

she danced with me in Paris, sharing a hostel bed,
and how sometimes you need one knife to carve another.

          *

It’s raining in two cities at once. The Vendôme plaza
fills with water and the dream, the fountain, the moon

explodes open, so that Layal, Beirut’s last daughter,
can walk through the exit wound.

Turnpike // Ghost

Wrong morning, late train, I wearing red for you.
A girl-thief. Startled,

the train lurched between two smokestack towns.
The subway, eye of a concrete needle.

Orchids, purple-furred. Trashed along with the orange peels.
Tulip-wearer. I never understood Brooklyn,

how a place could be bigger than it was.
The bartenders ask if I want another before I’ve had a first.

You, frost-eyed, a lake in the pocket of your khakis. I launder,
fold the warm clothes,

find a porch inside them. You call me home. Home.
What an Oklahoman sky is made of:

arrows in red dirt, quilt in the home team’s colors.
Chimes to announce the wind.

My father wanted a suburban lawn. Warm biscuits at Red Lobster.
He knows America as equation to be memorized,

ghost + furniture + eastern turnpikes. Fog as home.
The expressway, congested with commuters,

cars that steer back the way they came. I never did learn to drive.
Even if I wanted to leave, I couldn’t.

Related Poems

from “Daughter of a Tree Farm”

When children can no longer devote sympathy, owing to growing up. One mind always engaged or found with labor in order to be. Later on the trees acquired winter. Sent and took and did not go out. The weight of never shedding. We anticipated a cure if come willingly. We were unable to carry out nature. These impressions, fresh, often made me to see his life previous, the principal sadness I had to recognize.

We planted trees. We cleared the pond. Gathered different, undisturbed faith. Gradually the steps further and further withdrawing over the hills, beyond the fencerow. I was too
weak. I was often driven, but saw no way. I would never go back.

The difference, between us, not because I remained the same, unable to unalter, but taken from the midst, rarely clouded, and the broken. It was this, which woke me open, opened
to an outsider, a stranger.

Astroturf

Before my son was born, I had been inside my home often and, one spring day, sat myself on the astroturf behind a playground close to my home. I laid back, allowing the plastic grass to prick my arms and wrists. A few feet away, three girls sang a string of songs about heartbreak, all the while the lyrics broke and remade themselves on the edge of each spring leaf. I listened and I didn’t listen at once which felt like my fullest attention. The girls were so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one another, fingers braiding each other’s teen hair. They seemed like one animal of burnished light and I tried not to stare. It was the kind of beauty that held its own attention, needed no validation, long eyelashes and pale arms gestured toward wholly bright selves. I closed my eyes hearing their laughter. I heard, too, from afar someone approaching. I heard a small thud and a boy’s voice. They talked, they joked, and then a silence that made me open my eyes. After a longer pause, they asked him to please leave. I now saw the boy was black and I registered an expression that was slow rain coming down hard as he grabbed his backpack swinging it so fiercely, it almost hit one of the girls. As he walked away, they laughed past him. Their laughter was the long shadow that followed him for years, their laughter forced him to round the corner, almost gone from view. Before he disappeared, he yelled, “Bitch,” but the memory of him left not a trace. The girls continued to sing except now there were thorns falling on the imagined grass, some of which landed close to me. When I sat up, I felt a strong kick inside me. My boy would be here soon. Six more days into the future I would meet him. I touched the area that moved. I waited.