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my beloved forgets how to pray photo

after Kaveh Akbar

still stretches in the morning toward nothing.
             a corner with a desk & chair, a glass

             of water reaching for its rim. repeats
the two shortest surahs in the qur’an with a whisper

that wouldn’t fog a window. in arabic, there is a word
             that means both breath & spirit. ghosts slither

             around her lips like a pilot flame, bidding them
to part, hypnosis coaxed with jewel-encrusted horns.

in a cellar not far from here, wine waits years to peak
​​​​​​​             before a bottle is cracked open only to empty

​​​​​​​             a bruise. oil leaps from the controlled heat
of cast iron & tattoos a comma onto someone’s wrist.

once, i wandered into church after bringing my body
​​​​​​​             to the brink of combustibility. i can’t remember

​​​​​​​             what the priest told me, but know the photo
taken by heart—me, pale in the pews, windless & tranquil

as a toppled statue. now i wake everyday & try to do less
​​​​​​​             harm than the day before. still, one doesn’t choose

​​​​​​​             their obsessions. i couldn’t help myself when i stole
your wallet just to pretend i was you. don’t forgive me. i don’t

even know how to apologize. what’s the next right thing?
​​​​​​​             in aramaic, the words for rope & camel are one

​​​​​​​             letter off. one of the jewel-horned ghosts urged me
to trust God but to tie my camel. i can’t even trust myself.

i left the rope wriggling in the wind, tried to whip
​​​​​​​             & gallop my way through the needle’s eye

​​​​​​​             only to end up eating sand. my beloved lives
where blasphemy & the blade race to reach an open

throat—a lamb’s sacrifice & requittal called a kinder
​​​​​​​             silence swirling to meet the same drain.

​​​​​​​             she sheathes her hair under the soft strain
of satin, her tongue cribbed so tight in her cheek

it throbs. i’ve staked out street corners all winter
​​​​​​​             to draw my body’s outline thick enough

​​​​​​​             to see through the fog on rooftops.
she drew one breath & my corpse disappeared

like a kiss dissolving on a quay. here we mistake
​​​​​​​             the hawks’ restless circle for a carousel

​​​​​​​             in the sky, car tires spit out by ocean tides
for discarded halos of sunbathing angels. you might

call these miracles, or something closer to mischief
​​​​​​​             like sirens forging stars to hoodwink cartographers.

​​​​​​​             as far as they are, we still whisper—a song
so forlorn spirits guiding ships to wreck long for the shore.


image: Laura Pinto