She slops her thighs in the sorry little moat
and longs to be a dappled carp,
but God gave her legs
like soft heavy scissors.
I am finding things to talk about
like fish and scissors and my legs.
Once I did a quiz:
What is your favourite part of your body?
You are ready for anything!
I don’t know why I said legs,
I don’t know why...
The smell of moth killer in the hall,
the standard lamp, the wooden floor,
the giant mirror with my face,
the back of your head, your voice.
I dig my hands deep into my coat,
searching for odd crumbs, words
so used to the dark they might not survive
the dance in air, the giddy leap for light.
I try them once and know they won’t make
half the distance between us now.
They mingle with the gathering dust,
settling soundlessly. You don’t see them
as your fingertip sweeps the bookshelf,
brushes their presence from the wall.
Marjorie Lotfi Gill
On seeing Iran in the news, I want to say
my grandmother was called Nasrin,
that she died two years ago in Tabriz
and I couldn’t go to say goodbye,
that she knew nothing of power,
nuclear or otherwise. I want to say
that the fires for Chahar Shanbeh Suri
were built by the hands of our neighbours,
and as children we were taught to jump
and not be caught by the flame. I want to say
my cousin Elnaz, the one born after I left,
has a son and two degrees in Chemistry,
and trouble getting a job. I want to say
that the night we swam towards
the moon hanging over the horizon
of Caspian Sea, we found ourselves
kneeling on a sandbar we couldn’t see,
like a last gift. I want to say
I’m the wrong person to ask.
Whole Naked Man
In my kitchen, there is
a whole naked man.
Complete, unabridged –
an early form of pale flesh,
bristle and paunch.
He moves upright
on two hind legs, as if
still a novel stance;
yawns, arches his back
like a beast.
Strange animal grace –
I can’t help but think
civilisation a mistake.
This is enough.
He is swaying gently
by the sink, hands sunk
to washing up.
The Sun is not where you see it
to the top of the mountain.
The map’s fingerprint of contours swirling around me.
I am transmitted to satellites
Light scrambling free from the Sun’s surface
takes eight minutes to get here
time enough for the Sun to move a handspan
and dodge me
time enough to eat my apple
and send the core of its remains
looping away in the curve
I have learnt to predict from the books.
I must be precise in my steps.
The edge of that path’s just a foot width away.
‘Attempt this route only in good visibility’
instructs the guidebook
but right now the Sun is invisible.
Colour is a flame that you hold
in the mind,
it is the eye that looks back
When the flame is in the hand
it becomes something else:
you hold it to the mirror
That mirror might get darkened
when the flame is too bright,
so the object in your hand keeps
When you walk into a forest
or along the riverside, each leaf
reminds you that landscapes are alive:
their dimensions give you breath.
When you gather leaves towards the death
of the year, pumpkins, clementines
and crepe paper appear:
of long-ago laughter.
Orange is the leaf
just before its most intense,
the shade that falls in waking
to the flame.
The museum display says dominoes only hold
potential energy when they are still
which is to say that the fall
slaps them into letting go
which is to say that you and I have been holding
each other at a thumb’s distance for a long time,
afraid to know how much power we could have
should we touch
and how much it would cost
to spend it
You know the news already in your belly,
prepared for the worst
as if that helps.
Belief’s a funny thing; believe in yourself,
believe there can be justice, believe
or lose the race.
Just as in love you have to risk yourself,
give yourself - know that a protected heart
is stranded and alone -
you had to build this better future
as solid as the ground
or lose the possibility of getting there,
accept this sorry lot.
So now, the counts all in, the numbers told,
you want to cry. Gut-punched by fate,
Love Me Not
Bones are the constant beat.
entangled in roots they curl.
Spinning a slow spiral
up my spine.
I am sprouting sorrel,
blooming just below my collar-bone.
Remind me not to pick at petals.
“Does he love me?
Love me not?”
love me not.
For my bones are the constant beat
and they will grow their own garden,
not wait for someone
to bring me flowers.