This story is paired with “Aladdin” from 1001 Arabian Nights. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
Anthem for those Ancestors, or,
Astride the Hyphen’s Identity
(after the Kundiman & Kaya Press AWP Seattle Bruce Lee Party)
I don’t have, for you, a Bruce Lee poem.
I don’t have a poem about an elephant speaking
in the voice of Ganesh.
I don’t have the verse that versus the fundamentalist
to blow shit up that you don’t like.
I don’t have one foot in one land or one in another.
I don’t know the name for myself that isn’t diaspora.
I don’t fit enough into one tongue or another,
but I miss the tongue of that cowboy coming
home in a big truck,
still smelling of fracking and the fuel fields.
I don’t have, for you, a poem on the occasion of the
of the race of the racists.
I don’t have a voice stifled for you beneath some unchosen veil.
I don’t have, for you, words that speak your language.
I don’t have, for you, words that say “approval” – not
home, nor from home away from home, either.
I don’t have, for you a poem, about the nation of my
——– just the sinewy sibilance of my fingers, scratching out sighs on a page,
while I think of that good ole once upon a cowboy saying “I don’t really read such books
all the while reading stories on my skin, his fingers writing silence
on my sunbrowned sin, and
my thoughts reaching out to hold his bearded face, pull his hips close to mine so that I am
filled with a
words that I cannot name, or unlearn how to say.
Those places he has been, I have not; he has seen the sands that gave me my name,
Kan yama kan, Qaf and beyond.
I do not have for you a poem about the nomad in my blood
that knows these sandsongs that I cannot, do not know how, to say –
Oh, tie-ers of knots, untie my tongue, unknot what
I do not have, for you, a poem about.
American :: Dream
(On the occasion of the departure of forces, US and NATO, after twelve years of war in Afghanistan)
In the water of the scrying bowl, strings of silver curl into the letters of some foreign alphabet, letters formed of smoke and fog, of sand and kohl, palimpsests, of fire, fireless flame, firefly shame, starlight and otherworldly breath, pluming in the cold of desertscapes. // I dream you, fatigued, in fatigues, flesh charred, but in tact, singed and covered in soot, but alert and alive, more stunned than bled, your eyes, smiling – luminous, bright and blue as a drone-ready sky. // I dream you gathering seeds in the land of pomegranates, scattering them along the mountainsides, the sandy dunes, the horizon like a lion’s mane curling as the beast startles into some readied stance. // And, as I miss your fingers tracing the language of my lost tongue along my skin, the words I do not know, bursting into lush green life inside me, fire and flame and flower petals the color of spring. // I dream you safe and crossing currents of air and smoke toward an unsettled home, a waiting home, your hand scattering those gathered seeds with an open hand. And, when is April like a bride in Spring, the cypresses scenting the breeze? // I dream that they sprout flesh along barren terrain left behind, hearts, beating fruit, budding with fear and with frustration, with the anticipation of a coming storm.
Lovesick Wanderer, O Dervish of the Restless Heart
Whirling like the morning’s salt-scented breeze, over soft dunes until the sandstorm
tumult in me spins out unembraced across the whole of the horizon
Whirling like the wind over stark sandy dunes until the whole of me fills the horizon
uplifting in maddening tumult, enraptured by the sun’s face on every grain of time
Whirling like the rising and rising is a forever forgetting of a lightless descent into arid
desert embrace, sand singing the whole of me to the skeletal skein of horizon
Saba Syed Razvi is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX. Her poems have appeared in The Offending Adam, Diner, TheTHE, Poetry Blog’s Infoxicated Corner, The Homestead Review, 10×3 plus, 13th Warrior Review, The Arbor Vitae Review, and Arsenic Lobster, as well as in anthologies Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War Faith and Sexuality (Seal Press 2006), The Loudest Voice Anthology, Volume 1, and The Liddell Book of Poetry. She’s been honored with James A. Michener, Fania Kruger, and Virginia C Middleton Fellowships. She earned a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing in 2012 at the University of Southern California. Her collection of poems Of the Divining and the Dead was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012, and her collection of poems titled Limerence is forthcoming from Chax Press.