Four poems by Yasmin Belkhyr
the shadow of a thigh on a cream wall // your father’s name or your father’s throat // the things we only do past 11 // a forest of brown legs and feet // a belly green as gold, soft pink in the ocean light // a boy who called himself distance // my mother was a body of still water // we sit in the nosebleed seats, hands cracked on the velvet // a dog who didn’t want to be a dog // a girl who didn’t want to be a girl // a home that didn’t want to be a home // i’m sorry, i didn’t want this either
Every horror movie begins the same: a mouth swollen with rain water. We didn’t hear the dogs bark. Every night, a wishbone thrown on the porch. We thought only of her car sinking to the bottom of the lake, of the skins we left in the backyard. We knew our place. The dinner table, our tongue ripe with nostalgia, smiling with no teeth, ghostwater leaking from the closet. This is where the boys hide, in the breath before a car crash, in the jolt before a dream. We didn’t hear the dogs bark. We didn’t see the spider welts. And then, her hair like a halo, the killer ourselves, our mouths, empty, hands, still as water.
Sierra as a broken tooth in the bathroom, peeling tangerine rinds from her thighs, waiting for something to bloom. Sierra as salt down my back in glimmering light, as a dream I once had, as the dream I never had. Sierra as bloody diamonds, bloody gold, as her mouth pockmarked and full, waiting, easy, slowly, kiss me, fuck. Sierra as the person I didn’t let exist inside me, as the broken horse, the watery eyes, the twisted leg, and I didn’t want to shoot her. In the backyard, no barn, no midwest, no dreary Ohio dreams, me and you, Sierra, letting the mosquitoes ricochet across our palms, and I had a gun in my hands and you’re going to let me shoot you, you’re not going to cry. Belly kisses and you broke the windows with your bare hands. Belly kisses and sometimes, I blink and you’re shimmering, sometimes I blink and the light devours you. Sometimes it’s hard to pretend that you didn’t bleed, Sierra.
Huck as a swallow. Water in Sawyer’s mouth, an open faucet. We watch Angie swallow bridge lights and rivers long as women. Huck as a lake. Angie’s fingers pruned, peels a plum with her thumb. She eats the skin, and Huck chokes. Angie picks huckleberries in her backyard and doesn’t watch Tom shoot canaries and crows, feathers raining like the white of a moon. Dusk like dry kisses in back sheds. Tom paints a fence red, offers Angie two apples and a pack of matches. Later, Huck strikes each one against his palm, and by dusk, they soothe burnt tongues with marmalade and spit. Angie writes lists: her mother’s bible, an open shed door, a rifle, a still brook, and a dozen dead birds, no blood, none at all.
Yasmin is a writer. She was born in Morocco, grew up in NYC, and now writes poetry about honeydew and lightning in South Africa. You can find more of her work in PANK, Hobart, Word Riot, and on Verse Daily. Her work has also been showcased at MOMA P.S. 1, the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the U.S. Hall of Nations. Yasmin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Winter Tangerine Review, an organization that publishes a journal of writing, art, and short films quarterly, as well as interviews with artists and writers across the globe. Send her letters of love, hate, and indifference at yasminbelkhyr.com. Poems were selected by Rochelle Hurt.