Once the pain entered, I sensed my planet end into me but none
of my friends were there. When asked about family I replied: still. When
asked about depression I replied: nah. I was full of myself. All this religion
and a hunger for praying correctly (back should be flat enough
to balance a fruit bowl). I slowly discovered I was a swayback—my spine was
all genetic and no spirit. My sex, cash money spilling into an oily sea
where fish burn the white sky diaphragm and implode. The actual blue
is hardly a metaphor for the way I’m looked at, the real rot is a lone fickle
human on a cliff. As a child, I hoped to bonsai—turn simultaneously towards and away
from the sun. Twist into a thing commendable. When I was nine I pledged my
allegiance to the flag of the United States of America until I didn’t. I put my right
hand on my heart and didn’t know where to look. Everywhere I turned I saw kids with
the sea in them—serious and un-explanatory, holding out for an affect.
Self-Portrait of Being Seen
mother father I asked to be born in spite of jinn
with backward feet and the havoc of village snakes
oh to be bitten without consequence
oh to expose my calves to the park
let me sit with my legs open for once
I’m learning to walk with my head on
against the rule of ligament—my hair
my institute cultured by eyes and I
dirt-green for boys who occur in spasms
they rip open their shirts to unearth a mouth
so secure in upheaval but let me shiver
lay me glassy for the gleam to rupture
loose and fluttering like a wild synapse—
a current for a god to swim against
August was the month we learned how to breathe
her heart collapsed, blued wild for oxygen—grief, that rattling copper doorknob
that deserves to be turned gently unscrewed and fell from the hardness of knees
hitting the floor.
My mother and aunts rolled up their sleeves
tied their hair in the veranda—passed tubs of boiled water under the thick slab of night
combed its splintered chirrup down the cat’s stumbling back.
Pass her the cotton, pass her the scissors
pass me the white sheet with God’s speech written on it
The sky unstuck its sticky palate behind the clothesline and we took turns to perfume
her plush neck—the lemon tree stirred its fruit to awake the acidic peel.
We sat on her bed and talked about her body
that white fat fermenting stomach
that forgot to rise—her brother is in the other room, earning heaven via
the benevolent weave across his torso, ghosting for her hand, still.
There are three different kinds of love in my language:
mohabbat will keep the body alive like an heirloom newly dug,
pyaar will negotiate with the sun to intensify its heat over an open vessel,
ishq is the place where the universe hits the skull like a sledgehammer again and again and
Ask me what it’s like to kiss the feet of someone who never held you and
I’ll tell you that bodies were not made for comparison
even thin lips can kiss big enough to join two split pieces of skin together
Let me enunciate the tumble of my name for clarity—
born within the faith, cut from the underbelly of a beehive sick with honey.
Momina Mela was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, POETRY, The Blueshift Journal and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate and instructor at NYU and currently lives in Brooklyn.