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Two Poems, by Deema K. Shehabi

 

Pantoum

(for Fuad)

Summer at the solstice unburies its bloodlust
before a story of loss contradicts a memory
and sears a daughter’s face
as she dreams of her father’s last gasp.

Before a story of loss contradicts a memory
is the sound of a daughter half-asleep in the house,
dreaming of her father’s last gasp,
yet listening for his footsteps at the door.

Is the sound of a daughter half-asleep in the house
the same sound a mother makes as she hides from her son,
yet listening for his footsteps at the door
as he peeks through the keyhole then runs away.

The same sounds a mother makes as she hides from her son
is the echo of a nagging question about love
as he peeks through the keyhole then runs away:
Hold it, buddy, I’ve already seen you.

Is the echo of a nagging question about love
like a mirror of blood constellations in her eyes?
Hold it, buddy, I’ve already seen you.
He runs from her, thinking the sun belongs only to him.

 

A Dream of Cetaceans

(for whaling captain Harry Brower, Sr.)

Long boats press against his chest, bleached white, like children
transfiguring the photo. The calf arrives whole in the dream

and gives itself over to him though he could see its mother’s womb
knotted on the tarmac, the calf’s voice fleecing the mother’s epidermis,

while she loosens from its eyes harpoon flints, sea ice. In the record:
a blaspheme between magma and crust, as bowheads idle

beneath the boat’s torso, & when carvings in their liking chink their eyes,
they breach the surface, rappelling their bodies against his spear

though there are parts of him that refuse this negotiation.
As he lays in the hospital, where light rolls along the shuttered

window, he sees how their longing for land outlives,
their reign in the sea, their eyes like vessels carrying minnows,

their fetuses, a tribute to gardens.

 

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award's NCBR Recognition Award. She is also co-author with Marilyn Hacker of Diaspo/Renga, and the winner of the Nazim Hikmet poetry competition in 2018. Deema’s work has appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies, including Literary Imagination, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, and many others. Her work has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic.

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