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Love Song to Oddities

Pray as water droplets puddle
into a crevice,
a parched brown elbow,
ringed with youth & folded
by age.
An old sheikh bows his head,
spooning green carpet. My mother
feeds me a blanket of honey,
quivering & eagle-eyed. It will
cure my sore throat, she says,
stick to my flesh
& clog my crooning
esophagus. I am
a pearl, maybe, encased between
clammy shells & I want another
pearl.

Ellen is on TV again & she makes a joke
about her husband Mark. My father’s lips
are hollowed, pressed together
in shock. I burrow under
the covers again & imagine him thirty
years ago, at the library. My mother
pushing back her glasses matter-of-factly
& the blush that must’ve stolen
over his skin, warm & sweet like
mango flesh, dizzying like a glimpse
of muddy houses in swollen rain. Those
solitary figures, so cold &
clammed now, balmy & unlocked
back then. My in-laws didn’t want
my father to marry my mother. She
was too dark-skinned, too odd-looking.
Hooded & queer, with a headscarf
like a nun & serious eyes. I think of
my aunt, leaping out of glass fractures
to freedom. I think of my father,
defying his blood & bone. How they
stitched their family together
with hope & faith. The holy book
tightening the seams, love pouring
concrete between its
bricks. I am the product
of religion & romance. Spilled over,
a glass cracking under water’s
weight.

Friend,
you’re getting engaged this spring
& I am coming. I paint my
pillows with white dresses
& lehengas. You’ll stand
side-by-side with him &
grin like the stars pooled over
your porch. You’ll dream
of rivers, milky & grape wine. A
white picket fence. The pale coat
you don as a nurse, your first test
of nerves. A pink-cheeked baby,
bawling & planted under your feet.
Graduation lined up like
a row of ants bathing in dirt. Fresh
tomatoes & persimmons breathing in
your backyard. Say insha-Allah. Say happiness.
Say fear. Say sometime, curtained
in Future’s veil, your friend spills oil
into a water glass, the snap
of a rubber band. Say you’ll still
water those persimmons. Say you’ll still
sing your nasheeds.
Listen: an earthworm
trembling, at the precipice
of freedom, longs for
pure white soil
to wash away
his sins.

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