Back to Issue Thirty-Six

unholy ghazal



“there simply is no blasted God — there is only man and it is he who makes miracles”  L. Hansberry 

I have my convictions: no one watches over sparrows. Yet in my mother’s house, there is somehow a God
who listens to me blaspheme. I glory in the truth about my own magics, I anger my mother’s iniquitous God. 

I sharpen prayer into knives and kneel only for pleasure now that I know better. My mother says
when I fall ill or get strung up in revolution, I will discover the sovereignty of her disastrous God. 

But thirteen died in a chapel searching for his glory, and elsewhere a 13-year-old was killed during bedtime
prayer, her hands pressed to her chest, eyes looking up and I assume she was calling upon some just God.

I sat in a paddy wagon after that, sure of my death, my hands tied to my feet, my feet tied to the floor. I am sure in that moment, my mother prayed, but instead I sang. Yes, the song was my faultless

God, I crooned at the top of my lungs until my voice broke. Instead of beating me, the police
laughed. They forced quarters into my mouth, requested their favorite songs, their notorious Gods: 

God of Abraham, fear was greater than you. My own two wrists that I broke to slip the cuffs, too,
were bigger deities by their own circumference. My mother’s God fit in my pocket. My pouch God

waited until the coast was cleared to show his face. The first sounds he chewed into a word—Sorry. & I am
too, you God of ruin. God of dead children & of the police. & oh, of my mother, too. A heinous God.







I’ve released the fish back into the ocean,
In his mouth, one hook and my earliest memory: 

I named the fish after my father and did not kill him.
See me in all my forgiving glory! 

The fish gill slit and sly, slip-skinned and slutty.
My father wearing a different beast’s hide. 

I snuck an oyster blade into its eye, and that was all: I am not exempt
from attempts at blind rage. I am indeed my father’s daughter.  

A fisherman’s muse. A flounder’s second chance to swim.
If there was a storm I would’ve taken it as a sign,  

but the natural order isn’t equipped for revenge.
No, the sky was bursting with the possibility of rain,  

and the fish had my father’s eyes. So away he went, half blind
and still unable to speak my name across the bar I caught him in, 

tangled up between the holes of a net, or a woman who was not my mother.
I shouldn’t abandon the metaphor, for your sake, but my father  

was a promiscuous man and I don’t know if any fish has left
his young to starve, or fall victim to the vacuum of a whales mouth. 

Besides, here is a trout or a perch or a snapper, maybe, his fin
flecked toward my blade, so-called scales illuminate in the sun 

and fuck if I am not trying to be a different breed of man.
I am trying to improve upon my paternal line. I am empathetic  

enough to the aquatic, more than I am given credit for. I have
not done unto a scaled belly, what has been done to mine. 

I hate a thing without gutting it. I can love a father
& never lie about what I do with my knife when he leaves


Aurielle Marie is Black. An Atlanta-born, Queer poet, essayist, and social strategist, she was selected by Fatimah Asghar as the 2019 winner of the Ploughshares Emerging Writer Award, and won the 2019 winner of the Los Angeles Review Poetry Award. She’s received invitations to fellowships from the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for LGBTQ writers, Tin House, The Watering Hole, and VONA Voices. Aurielle’s essays and poems have been featured in The Guardian, TriQuarterly, Teen Vogue, The Florida Review, VINYL, BOAAT Magazine, Black Warrior Review, Essence, Allure. Her poetry debut Gumbo Ya Ya won the 2020 Cave Canem Prize.

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