Meditation While Plaiting My Hair
I part my hair straight down the middle,
a river on either side—
In the past, someone shaped like me
poured water from a metal carafe
straight into my mouth,
the echo of my river submerged in your river—
Lately, I read about storms all night,
because there is no lightning here; instead
I see the wind pull down the tautness
of trees and the swans at the lagoon part
through the wreckage.
Each one is another translation for love
if love was more vessel than loose thread.
Once, we sat poolside outdoors in Dar es Salaam
and I chose survival over your body.
Why is it I only ever see the night heron alone?
I tendril neatly together my hair, soaked by salt
and the wood of a body I do not touch,
the spine of a book left open on the page
I forgot to bookmark—
The spine of a book I left out in a storm,
each of its rooms sliding into our margins,
into all these tendrils of blank space—and, tell me, when did I let us splinter?
The Ghosts That Visit Us as We Dream
Today, the birds woke me from a necklace of dreams
where a woman shapeshifted into wind.
When she wasn’t wind, she was a vase of dark,
extended rivers, and when she wasn’t
water, she was a woman selecting tender oranges
to share with the city doves.
The night before last, my father had dreamt
of his mother walking barefoot through
a bed of mangrove trees at low tide. A thin sliver
of her face was visible beyond its veil, its wreckage,
about the same fraction as there was moon in the sky.
In real life, it was January and somewhere
on the coast of the Indian Ocean, a mangrove tree
snapped into the polygon of a bad omen.
Still, together, they laughed like a hive of honeybees
right there, in the fringes of a night terror.
In the next dream, she became the evening sky and
coiled around all animate objects until
they blurred into igneous stone. I read online
somewhere that our ancestries haunt us
and it is impossible not to witness their shapeshifting
griefs. I couldn’t close the tab for days afterward.
Finally, she shifted from night sky into my own shadow
as swiftly as a dishonest bat,
and I realised I could not laugh with a ghost I had never met.
I could only mourn like an exhale
in the leftover space, the altered stone–the darkened
birthmark where she once stood.
Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. She is the author of the chapbooks Hinge (ignitionpress) and Faces that Fled the Wind (BOAAT Press). Alycia’s recent awards include a Pushcart Prize, the 2019 CBC Poetry Contest, the Discovery Poetry Contest, the Ploughshare‘s Emerging Writer’s Award and the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize. Find her online at alycia-pirmohamed.com.