All posts tagged: Issue 21

The Cripple Gets Married

By AHMED BOUZFOUR
Translated by NASHWA GOWANLOCK

 

Marzouka’s lips are wet

Marzouka? She’s carrying a bundle wrapped in a cloth on her back, and her earrings sparkle. Marzouka comes closer, and I move closer to her. The sun is scorching, and her large earrings are blinding. Should I greet her? I kiss her hand, so she kisses me on my forehead. I kiss her cheek, red like the late-afternoon sun. “Let me be your son,” I say to her. “And carry me like that bundle on your back.”

The Cripple Gets Married
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We Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About

By JESSICA FISCHOFF

I remember the first time I saw a vagina
on the white pitched walls of an art museum— 
Columbus, Ohio, mid-afternoon. I was five, maybe 
six, maybe a few months shy of my grandmother’s 
cremation, the day after my goldfish, Rosie, jumped 
down the disposal and my mother ushered me
from the kitchen before she turned it on. 
I remember the curve of my little neck
upwards, that lush flesh on display, all swollen 
and pink. I remember closing my lips
to the awe that overcame me, my mother finding 
my hand to lead me toward the wing of still-lifes, 
all those porcelain bowls filled with perfect fruit. 
I’ve studied the metaphors of this womanhood, 
learned the verses of ‘lady-like’, but I can’t stop staring 
at the memory. I remember how unnamable was
the feeling of the rope that hung the disc swing 
from my neighbor’s walnut tree as it caught 
between my legs, the pleasure in that pressure
before dinner. I remember lying on the shag
green carpet of my bedroom, two days before
my bat mitzvah, bleeding onto the towel
I’d placed beneath me, the red dress I’d wear
at the celebration hung from the door almost
as bright a shade as this rite of passage,
the first time I realized that most deadly
weapons have once been covered in blood.

We Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About
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Heaven’s Hand

By LATIFA LABSIR

Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE

 

Prickly pear cacti are always squat and spindly bushes—that much I know. The exception to this rule, however, is the prickly pear grove found in my grandfather’s village. It’s lofty. It towers into the sky, its foliage so dense it always struck me as foretelling of a secret that was to be hidden away for good in its myriad crevices and shadows. And what intensified this feeling in me, and brought me to the conclusion that cacti are far from innocent, was the sight of our beautiful, fair-skinned friend Heaven running to the prickly pear one day and trying to hide among its limbs and behind its broad, swollen leaves. She looked like the heroine of a fairy tale fleeing a terrifying kingdom.

Little beads of sweat were pouring off her forehead, her cheeks were even rosier than usual, and when she almost slammed into me on her way past, a shivery thrill went through my body, a strange jolt of energy. Heaven did not seem to be the same sex as me, even though I knew her well and I had seen her bathing in her birthday suit more than once; just like me, she had untamable, bouncing breasts. But deep down inside, Heaven was fundamentally different from me, as—in utter contrast to most girls in the village—she existed in a constant state of awe. She lived among us, but her almond-shaped eyes seemed to be seeing another world, about which we knew nothing at all. And what was stranger still was the color of those eyes of hers: they beamed out a brilliant sky blue that made her the talk of the entire village. Despite everything that was said about her and her eyes in the village back then, I didn’t understand anything about that awe they shone with until I grew up. As an adult I finally came to understand, with the benefit of hindsight, what the grown-ups had been hinting at about the djinns that had taken up residence in Heaven and imprisoned her in an invisible box called Desire.

Heaven’s Hand
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The New Inexpressible

By PHILIP NIKOLAYEV

1

the inexpressible isn’t that which cannot
be expressed but that which will fall
expressed upon deaf eardrums meet with
sightless eyes centerfolded even
or on the front cover it will escape notice
and upon the face itself remain undetected
because mere expression isn’t all it takes
to be detected to be reasonably considered
expressed to others brothers sisters cousins
or indeed a disinterested passerby
hiding all in plain sight and only the fool thinks
no wait the fool does not even think that
no mystery is gone missing from his equation
a haze of sadness covering what is truly true

The New Inexpressible
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The Cassandras

By EMMA SLOLEY

 

The cemetery where she meets him after work is both vertiginous and claustrophobic. The graves are crowded closely together, like huddled children cowering from punishment, then there is a short stretch of lawn tilting to the cliff’s edge, and beyond that a sickening void she imagines rushing out to meet her. Why would it occur to someone to build a cemetery on a steep escarpment above the Pacific Ocean? The weed-hemmed tombstones are cracked and bleached. No one has been buried here for ages; they’re all in the fashionable new cemetery out near the airport. The paths are strewn with shards of glass, the torn petals of sad plastic flowers, scraps of trash, and shriveled cigarette butts, and the whole thing might have an air of tawdriness if not for that view: blinding blue sky sliced horizontally by the cliff edge, the wild ocean below. The audacious, swaggering drama of it.

The Cassandras
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Two Stories

By FATIMA ZOHRA RGHIOUI
Translated by NASHWA GOWANLOCK 

Petty Thefts

I’m frightened of everything. I walk around with my abnormal body. I haven’t learned to accept it yet, this body that bulges in every direction. Now I have two round lumps jutting out of my chest, and shrubbery growing in my armpits and between my legs. And then there’s the fear that’s plunged itself deep inside me. 

Two Stories
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Piano Movers

By MICHAEL CATHERWOOD

Two Men and a Truck are here to haul our
piano away to a nice woman’s 
house, who’s agreed to move it to own 
it, so her children can learn to play. An hour
early, two men in the truck pass a pipe
while on my open porch I read 
the sports page. I see ribbons of smoke peel
from the open truck window. The ripe

Piano Movers
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