Back to Issue Twenty-Eight.

My Body is a Forest

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

There is a face in the trees—

I lost a language
                        to the gap-toothed    birch.

Even the pine has learned how to swoon
when the wind
                deposits a secret.

A country is born knowing what it means
to waver.

A lost country is made by its daughters

and shame begins as a seed
                              that blossoms perennial
                 throughout generations.

Clove keeps the cha bitter—   for every dark

I apologise

                because I could not read the recipe
written in my grandmother’s neat script.

I added cinnamon      crushed anise      mountain

         and too many quartered

once I watched a mule deer unfold her limbs
and vanish

                 among the haloed trees

fog uncoiling at her heels      a ghost
inviting her

into its loosened borders.

In the blood of every migrant
      there is a map pointing home    this body

is an ode to the scattered landscapes
that have marbled my neck

with dark
hairs      and      sharp coarse

                 Ask me how I remember her—

Not a face      but a movement
          legs stotting into a slip of boreal green.

A swatch of colour
           in the shape of a lost country.

A daughter      which is to say      an inherited

               through the slit of a dream.



My Inheritance is to Long for [       ]

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

What knocks over the jar of cloves?
Each flickering cross

lands on the linoleum      scatters like the word for [      ].

My body is the shape of [     ] behind the grassland smoke.
I have my grandmother’s round face

and her double moles across my forehead—

if she is the ghost that unmakes
this second-generation belonging

hollowing my body into great-great-memory
splintering an ancestry

into a chasm

then I am the ghost in family photographs
a generation of crossings

becoming and unbecoming the country I long to know
its [      ] and whistling thorn.

I leave the window gaping like a lily’s mouth
and welcome the      clatter

of fallen lines.
Her language slips and quivers between my teeth.

[      ] is the morning that clots itself like bloodlines
and the ache that unfurls

at the precipice of the throat— an unopened
dried flower

bud      an apology      a woman’s country / language
spilling into the room

as if to quell this need for wholeness

each branch the slender needle of a compass
every corner an ode to my homeland.



There Are Parts of Myself I Have Watched Die

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

As if it is a kind of strength to hold something down
and slit its throat.

I have died three times in this poem, already.
The truth is, there is a river after death and I see it move

toward me, frothing in its shape of lemon wedges.

I seek truth in the surfaces that glint beneath eyelids
carrying a heavy lash. I close my eyes

and pray a good prayer.

I would rather see the pleating river than the knives
my neighours hold.

I would not call it strength how a man can lace up another man
and hang him by his religion,

how a moon can call another moon “blood.”
Yes, I have died three times in this poem by your hand.

The river speaks in whistles and stones; it says that perhaps
I have always been a visitor.

It carries away its marrow and driftwood
and sometimes my body stripped of its bleating.

I wonder, did I swim on a current and cut through this border?
Did I knock over a jar

of thirty-three prayers into a kitchen of hanging moons?

Or perhaps, what the river really said
is that I can only stay a visitor for so long.

After all, I know how much one loses in translation.

With each death, I become ghostly, ghostlier—
a mistranslation

that slips through a heart chewing its prairie grains,
a heart bred on western winds,

a heart that is almost a noose.

I have killed myself three times in this poem, already,
but only a single face fades at a time.

The river taught me once about belonging
and I turned those lessons into a grave.

Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. She received an MFA from the University of Oregon and is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying poetry written by second-generation immigrant authors. Her work has recently appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Prairie Schooner, the Fiddlehead, the London Magazine, Room Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others. Alycia is the author of the chapbook Faces that Fled the Wind (forthcoming, BOAAT Press) and the winner of the 2018 Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest in Poetry. She currently reads for Tinderbox Poetry Journal.


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