Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.–—Lord Tennyson
Winter is my nightlong field. Cruel, yet
yet after leaving my mother’s warm water, I wept
snow. And when my tongue tastes
the first flake, I quiet. Sometimes, I pull from my pocket
a telescope. In the sky, light
collapses, the moon cranked up
like a cry signal. Last January,
beneath a sky of scorpions, fish, the bull all scintillating–—
I found a girl’s body.
Seven bodies. Sister bodies. Grieving
for the fate of their father, Atlas,
forced to carry the heavens forever, they kill themselves.
Zeus pins them
as a clot
of winter stars.
On the third day, my mother’s fat tongue flexes
as she sounds the ink blue
glyphs of my name, each letter
rattling her knucklebones
as she writes it. A fearful undertaking, God-like task.
Yet the stars were named
by people like us. Choose
one word. Say it over
and over until a blaze builds
in the basin of your mouth:
لنّظم Alnilam, String of Pearls
راقصة Ar-Raqis, The Trotting Camel
اخرج من النهر Achemar, End of the River
I could have been called
after seven anythings:
seven seas, seven heavens,
seven ahruf the Holy Qur’an was revealed in. Instead
I am named after seven hot orbs
of gas, the ghosts
of goddesses, daughters dangling
in sorrow. When I sleep, God threads me through a catasterism.
I am embraced
as their eighth sister
in the backdrop of blackness. We evade المنطقة Mintaqa–—
for our love,
flash paths for the lost,
catch and groom the wish a little girl whispers.
we could bless ourselves
into fast comets, firecrackers,
the pearled wilderness of the moon. And our fathers
tie us in a knotted braid:
both work too hard,
carry so much weight
on their shoulders.
Fifty years ago, my father learned
resistance is found above, in the stars
held together by their own gravity.
How their heat owns the whole night, yet a boy
can’t even keep his home.
Since our last move
he told me, Each of my wounds
carries a wounded man, and–—snow in my eyes,
snow in my mouth, wet
hands iced speech, snow
soaking my socks red–—
I believed him. I want to ask him about the scar.
And when do you feel
Do you find yourself
holding up ceilings, sweeping crumpled
lifespans off the floor
the way I do?
Lorca gives me
a vague trembling of stars, says, Place these
in your father’s heart.
Says, The rose is as white
as his pain.
I see my father’s rush: time hugs him
tight as he stuffs a suitcase
before fajr, sneaks into a smoky slipstream
from tanks at the corner, stiff-thin shoulders shrouded
in morning mist.
When he first
his words became corpses. There was no name
for it. In the blizzard
his eyes never shut,
into the ground, cold avalanche up his nostrils
so he can smell
Before he wakes
I leave a bowl of melted snow by his bed.
The winter water
coils him into his own
From my window, his soul dives into darkness
into a pool of space.
For once, he is held:
erected mosque, mountained, inexhaustible.
In the sky, he isn’t a body anymore–—
endless and ethereal,
waiting to be noticed, waiting to be named.