Quarantine

By HERA NAGUIB

 

Tonight, I halt to prior ghosts 
   that upwell again, funerary as the sirens 
     that shrill through the tracheal alleys. 

            When I tell F., he says, this is America— 
what you leave for her claims you back

            Yes, the fountain veil loping 
over the ribbed Red Sea I wanted 
            to shiver to a whisper as a girl. 
Yes, little caskets of Himalayan 
pine nuts I thumbed each sulfurous winter. 

It’s true I’ve buried all the cities I’ve called home 
            in some lacquered erstwhile ache. 
            How easily I’ve worn 
the sky’s feigned amnesia & throbbed 
            tedious, as the landscape outside 
   where each evening, the same rangy cat 
licks the fungal pool in the balding grass.

What, truly, would I give for repose: to belong? 
To breathe inconspicuous as a dab 
on a box Mother clamps over the still humid 
dinner across that eastern hemisphere 
            where night slinks into every 
            familiar katora and spoon hollow? 

Everywhere, contagion shreds 
being to a minimal question. 

The answer ferments, unspoken & 
            hung over the open bracket of sleep. 

On the news, grounded airplanes 
heckle me with their snouts. 
The earth teethes coffins en masse. 

For days, the mind, a fugitive, 
             seeks to slink from its atlas of disquiet. 

For days, I touch no one. 

I let hours thaw on my nape 
             and outstare a ceiling stain 
             till it sips from my affliction.

 

Hera Naguib is a Pakistani writer who was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Toronto, Canada. She is a PhD candidate at Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Academy of Poets’ Poem-A-Day, The Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, and World Literature Today, among other publications. Her website is HeraNaguib.com.

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Quarantine

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