In my poems, she is my mother
I heard her say once
it must be nice
to decide something you needed
then take it.
She, whose walls stood erect
like the 99 names of God
she thumbed every evening
taking them between her fingers because she needed
because they were hers
because despite the salt-tinged recitation
of names she couldn’t
summon her lips to savor.
My mother lost her rosary
in a hotel, tucked beneath
the pillowcase it carried with it
her intimate braille messages.
Fingers over smooth wood
searching, reading, following
to an eternal not-finding.
I read philosophy through my mother
and eat up regrets more times
throughout the day than I consider
She calls it
when I eat and still manage to wither.
My mother is now allergic to the sun,
slathers on creams,
covers her face and hands in gloves.
Her tears drag across my face,
and she tells me that I, too,
might be sensitive to the light.
But yesterday the moon was full
so we crowded around it on the balcony
three cameras to get that perfect
assault of beauty on the eyes--
our tone-deaf senses that judge
without asking for reason first.
Beauty is at once our situation and our deed.
She points to with her finger
the edges of an uneven,
she traces: the surface
of a divisive split deep
cuts to the earth’s being.
I used to think more about change.
Mine, not hers, we were fundamentally
disconnected, but by what
and how? We were once
two shores of one body
between us, a river
of blood and a cord,
and then I was born
She sleeps and I disappear
sliding, striking, unsteady between sheets
where, she, cannot reach me.
About the Author: Lubna Safi is a Syrian-American writer residing in Berkeley, California where she is a student completing her doctorate, focused on Arabic Poetry and Poetics, at the University of California, Berkeley. Both her academic and creative work emerges from the deep-seated intersections of her bilingual upbringing. Her work has also appeared in the Avalon Literary Review and is forthcoming in Jaffat El-aqlam.