Oiled Legs Have Their Own Subtext

By Momtaza Mehri

doctor says there is something wrong with your thyroid / you are known
to leak everywhere / to take the shape of whatever / wherever you are
poured into / you do not contest his claim / or any other man with his
hands around your throat / before the appointment / you slice a heart /
swallow breath mints to disguise / the miasma of desperation / slide a
ring onto each finger / bejewel a somatic distraction / let the Gulf of
Aden run ragged / from the twinned lakes / of shoulder blades / an
inherited wetness behind the ears / you kiss / the mirror’s cold navel /
with the kind of pride that comes naturally / to those born carrying
history as an extra limb / to the sticky yolk of grief / you do not think
you are a Good Person™ / not with the way you cough up contradiction
/ phlegm thick as Aramco / poverty’s slick jaw / or how you gloss your
mouth with a humanitarian shade of pink / dress each lie in crushed
pearls / but because you remember the names of your brothers / never
your sisters / your sister’s sisters / your sisters who are an occurrence /
never an event / never a shudder when they stop occurring / there is
nothing to mark their arrival / or leaving / Hodan aged 21 / and six
months / who doused herself in liquid surrender / set herself alight / her
second attempt at peace / in the bulletin thumbnail she wears royal blue
/ looks like a woman you would powder / your nose next to / at a
wedding / wrist against cheek / soft wick of her rimmed eyes / banjee
queen / doe-eyed diva / dhow-hearted / what did they do to you / onto
you / at Nauru Regional Processing Centre / what did this processing
look like / OPC1 / where detainees sew their lips together / silence
themselves before they are silenced / where women hoard cloths to plug
their bleeding / hide from both inmates and guards / carry the children
of men who did not ask / infants who did not ask / an island of orphans
/ of what could have been you / but is not you / will never be you / from
across the ambit / oh for fate’s insurgencies / its sweet edge / the
topologies of our lives / their sharpened sighs / soft implosions of flip-
flops/ on airport floors / you dream in eastern time / wait for the hijaz
to collect / the bags under your eyes / for her to warm your pulse / with
her hands / her cratered lap / friends described her as a “gentle soul” who
had been “destroyed” / by her time in detention / you note the
alliterative phrasing / a velvet undoing / there are as many ways to be
destroyed / as there are droplets on the tongue / to describe it / Hodan
rolls in your mouth / draws salt from saliva / you think of the white of
nerve endings / the melting of dermis / grass hissing underfoot / all that
separates her / from / you / me / is a slip of a generation / a fistful of
decades / in another life / the war that broke you / breaks ten years
ahead / and you are the one drowning / you are forgotten / in this life /
you rest on the pillow of abstraction / on your passport / the freedom
papers of this age / your proximity to the bodies that terrorise hers / the
rolled dice of your life / it is what it is / every poem that falls /
chandeliered / is about this distance / its heavy head on your lap / its hot
laugh on your neck / its doll-like teeth marks / you have never known a
/ worse / than / coincidence /

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