With this black swan’s wing in front of my eyes
I step forward.
It is a horse’s blinkers
and with it I stay upright.
It is the code of a cosmos no one can crack,
a shield of flies,
my soot cloud of courage and shame.
It is my barbed-wire bridal veil
zigzagged with lightning
and shreds of torn flesh.
There is a needle and thread in it
like a spider in a web that must be mended every hour
and behind it I wear
a dress like a fiery placenta.
I am always born into a strange country,
learning to walk as if for the first time,
each day a venture out the door,
one foot in front of the other,
my mouth taped shut, my hands tied.
My head split at the fontanel,
my brain a looted jewel-box,
my hair a nest of briars
scraped back and bristling,
my face blanched from the cave-back.
I bring the silence of the grotto,
my fingers raw from clawing rock.
If I smell like a dungeon
it’s because there was bat shit.
If the insects of the perma-dark
crawl over my skin
it’s because they were company.
I come with the eyes of a baby
who has never seen light,
who unwraps the clouds of day
to the core.
I bring the patience of one whose clock
was a stalactite.
I am ready to enter your lair,
my feet wading through lead
towards the altar of your bed, my captor.
FROM EFFIGIES (THE A.M. QATTAN FOUNDATION / THE MOSAIC ROOMS, 2013)