This city calibrates hell with time. We have plenty of both. They are the same. Here
the sky borrows the rosacea freckled gooseflesh of an Uzbek shepherd. There are
things I have yet to see through you. I too know a few things about losing homes.
The first thing to go is the address. My grandmother’s cheap cigarette trembles in a
joke—add more dresses, jaan. Jaan, life. She will die before I wed. You or anyone
else. I return to that house shaped like a chandelier earring she left me as my
heirloom. I collect my dowry. I bless my dead. All their bombed bodies bridge into a
guerilla tug of war. In the mirror of water, the corpse of a nameless city clothed in
algae and plastic. In my dream, I once showed her Atlantis. The Caucasian anatomy
of deep-drowned statues—demigods electrocuted by their own exorcisms. Maybe
that was god’s garden. She said our Eden breeds the greed of venus flytraps. It is
naked, sharp, and boomerangs like a hungry child’s voice. It echoes at the base of all
our spines. Before leaving, I bury her talisman among the gourd and watch a new
vine rehearse its calligraphy against the stained glass of my window. I have
inherited her cupboards full of elegies in silk. On the dining table a glass of milk, a
widow’s veil, a deaf ghost. In bedouin poetry, the phrase used by poets remains qilt
al-qasida (‘I uttered a poem’) and not katabt al-qasida (‘I wrote a poem’). So I utter
myself, Other myself—pause the grave of each heartbreak and fill it with the dirt of
words. I lower the last of her language inside me like a coffin slowly hunkering
above a wet pit.
You eat me like I am the sacred bread. The anthropology of this worship is best
understood in the vicinity of sparrows & serpents. Tongue cocked. Devout.
Devastated. I want to linger against your heart-drum; the silkworm harbored to its
mulberry leaf. I want to say—here is a boy with eyes like the doors of an orphanage.
The country you leave behind is a collage of bombed terraces. Each wall has
welcomed its own grenade; each wall is a constellation of snuffed cartridge. In those
days, how easy it was to drag down the sky and trace each birthmark on the hip of
All night the roof in Kabul shatters its translucent ribs against the ricochet of rain.
All night an army of contradictions left mumbling between need and nerve. All night
the pianissimo of shelter after atonement. You stamped me with your homelessness
—an illiterate man’s thumbprint on a forged passport; a skein of sandpiper lifting the
length of my horizon to a further, more excruciating distance. I undress you of your
apologies. This is the beginning of a bridge between God & grief. This is why we
have two lungs. This is why the heart came unpaired.
Author's note: Pashto is an Afghan language.
Scherezade Siobhan is a psychologist, writer, and the maker of world's finest Spanish omelettes. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in tNY.Press, Bluestem Magazine, Black & BLUE Writing, Cordite Poetry Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Electric Cereal, Mandala, Fruita Pulp & others. Her first poetry collection Bone Tongue was published by Thought Catalog Books in 2015. She can be found squeeing about small furry animals, football (the proper kind), & neuroscience at viperslang or @zaharaesque.