Two Poems by Zaina Alsous

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Mahram

before the house of God
nude ribs kneel

i did not come here as a bride
sisters touch in exchange for entrance
we are widowed fireplace
instruments of thrust
mirages who throw stones to the wind

before Damascus burned
a splitting; tears wash wedding dress
i left my virginity and my mother the same night
there are deaths without burial

we circle black stone in white shroud
out of reach for kiss
is there still room for us in heaven?

we are thirsty
who held Hagar’s scorched feet?
we are thirsty
do angels descend
without birth of a son?

at the well i see reflection
the shadows of Venus
i could drown sacred

i did not come here as a bride
my body is holy land
our sore throats is pilgrimage

What I Know

modesty is a muscle memory
kindled in Sunday school, a ballad of ankles and wrists
Orientalism is an inside joke
beautiful men smoke cigarettes, speak of longing
in cafes with names that make sense in moonlight

i never find a picture frame for my arm hairs
or applaud mama’s hums over rotisserie
she tells me the Prophet is a good man
i wonder about his puberty
record that I am an Arab
no no not an Arab, an Atom
searching for electrons HERE and NOT HERE
laughing in a painted corner
about an insignificant exile, an irritable devotion

Author photo of Zaina Alsous

Author photo of Zaina Alsous

Zaina Alsous is an anti-racist activist and daughter of the Palestinian diaspora living in the U.S. South. Her poems are inspired by exile, longing and outer space. Her work has been featured by The Offing, NON Quarterly, Jaffat El Aqlam and the Sula Collective.