Back to Issue Thirty-Two

 Buried at Sea

2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

We stand like drones on the balcony, bones too quick
to draw rust. Gold wraps around your neck

and dangles from your ears. Outside
the men carry Jika’s casket and scream—

the sky a pink funeral. For a second
we wonder how blood could spill itself

over so many godforsaken clouds. Inside we stitch sorrow
doll after sorrow doll and beat them against the floor.

We make thousands like this, spray them with blood
then with water

and beg them to suffer.

What a mess, I say as we pick them up and do repairs:
suture arms and heads and stuff synthetic fiber

like scrap clouds into their backs.

We saw the box, you say, but not
the body. Not the white linen taut

around it, not the mad dust rise as it hit
the ground. We pretend it drowned and traveled

north with the Nile.

We douse the dolls in gold, load hundreds into our bags
like fruit. We talk about our mothers and

walk for days towards the sea.

You teach me to swim, teach me
so well I could have reached

the very heart of the sea.

We swim like we were born breathing water—remember
what we did in the womb. Swimming,

there is no blood, no fire, no echo of power
no echo of blood.

No dust. No box. We carry
the golden bodies like gifts

to the gods on the floor.



Sight Lines

2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

Before it was a field hospital, this hospital
was a flower shop. Clusters of ghost

white filler flowers lived and languished
in every corner                 like stars, square

in the throes of noon. Now the field hospital
is a poem. A living language monument

to lost eyes. November 2011. Rubber bullets
tore through                      eye after eye

after                  . In some language, a wild
flower is a demon, a bastard, an evil spirit

alive in the field. Police protocol suggests aiming
for people’s legs.              Ingenious the Eye Sniper

shot at our eyes. Demon weed. Evil field. Unobstructed bullet
after bullet sprouted and stole the winter sun.

Outside the hospital that once was a flower shop
an eyeless chorus              cursed Qanass

El-euyun. Eye go out in search of June. Love, let me
look your grief                   in the eye.

Look. Eternal Spring. Golden hue. A field of blind
sunflowers, in some language: worshipping the sun.

What heliotropic grief. Before it was a poem, this poem
was a body. Outside the poem our bodies thaw in pools

around our legs.               What stars, where?




2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

In the smaller hall upstairs, Noura
won’t open her eyes. They stay shut so long

they disappear. When it’s time,
her feet dig into the frayed

olive rug. Her father flies
off her tongue, and flies, and falls.

The cool wind whimpers
before it bawls—brightness breaks

like an egg on the lime walls.
Shoulder to shoulder,

women draped with mourning
shift on heels streaked with soil

as prayers rise like steam
from below.

‘O god, purify him of his sins
as a white dress is purified of filth.’

Aaameeen. I daydream
a little washing machine in every grave,

each of us tumbling and turning
in some holy detergent,

bargained for by orphaned women
in the throes of noon.



Migrant of Love

2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

If I was going to love a woman, yes I suppose 
I would want her to be weak 		and sad and see-through, 

want her to run toward me in the morning, 
 			              and run toward me at night. I would want her body 

to be clean, 	want my son to live in it 	  make it a country       and break it, 
stain the soil with his blood. 

If I was going to love a woman I would want her to look up, lost,
sing so embarrassingly 	soft…sing		  feed me 	              feed me feed me. 

But one night, sleeping, I saw a woman 
and I had to ask the dream to slow down.   	    		    I see her burning 

the borders, 	border by border, in every map 		            in every atlas—
freeing the sick cities,
			the wild women, 		
 			the frantic godless	        gods. 

She makes the whole world 		    stateless 
and keeps the enemy locked in her heart.

When they interview her, she says: 
Honestly, I just couldn’t stand it. So I left.
From their small plastic boats, everyone has to learn 
to translate                   the birds.

Each day, her lover, carried far by the blind eyes of the wind, 
poses an unanswerable question to the sea. 	#63. Is there a way back to her country? 

Angered by this peninsular assault of language, the sea turns red. It stays forever red.
Now there is one sea Red and one sea                           	    Dead. 

His voice breaks barking in the dead red dark. 		            He hunts. 
There is nothing 	        to gather. 

I don’t even know what he’s hungry for. 

The dream leaves silent lacunae 				    so our bodies can burn. 
A wind breaks over a pink trick mountain in the Valley of the Moon and I,

I know every dream is a fiction of the world 
but she was queen 	of all of it.                  New trees grew from her borderless palms.




Sara Elkamel is a poet and journalist, living between her hometown, Cairo and New York City. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University and is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at New York University. Her writing has appeared and is forthcoming in The Common, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, American ChordataWinter TangerineHalal If You Here Me (Haymarket Books, 2019), and elsewhere.

Next (Garous Abdolmalekian) >

< Previous (Steven Duong)