About the Writer
Khaleel Gheba received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2014. His work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Parcel, Redivider, the Nashville Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Maryland, where he works as a public librarian.
Mohammed thanks Jibreel for teaching him to read
But he's lying -
no longer will dawn
be a sparkling hush
over dune crests
nor will his wife
warble mystery songs
into the well's depths.
Instead, all words:
carved by other men.
With three clear commands
the angel took
his spotless world away,
marking the page forever:
"Peace be upon him."
Modernity's bare wheel bears down on your neck,
and surprise, the jonquils are blooming stupid
patterns of fold, stamen, pistil, total abandon
for what? Continuation is the robin's call, pugilist
of the branch, why are we listening to his song
out of nibbled strawberry, trampled melon, the doe
looks at you like you are a silencing, and you hunger,
this belly made of teeth and want, gurgle Continuation
towards the next, then next, as if the day holds anything,
you lean into tomorrow like a drunk to a wall mislocated
then fall, a comet smears itself to horizon, sloppy
omen of Continuation, morning blows its snotty mist
on everything as a blessing from an awful saint,
for which there are no holidays, candles, churches, lately
the clarity of television is better than mine own eyes,
Continuation writes the crawler, bark the dogs in chorus
from cages and yards and rectangles of obvious
ghastliness, the ghost surrenders nothing now
to you or me or the circuit board punching Continuation,
quantum revelations of the well within each ort we toss
with fury into the trash, which I am and so are you. This
is the singular call to which we respond, “And then?”
You make me feel smaller. Like Houdini in the barrel, who died on rocks. I can relate: you talk to me behind treated wood, in which I am alive, cooper-bent, molding to the curve. No, he died of a sucker punch, a fist comparing itself to softer processes. That's me - keeling over, hacking up handkerchiefs on sawdust. You seem like you're everywhere now: turned out of the kitchen, stalking lawns, bobbing your head through the gravestones. The other night, I watched you sleep, your breasts sloshing up your neck with each breath, glaciers finding lower valleys, and I didn't know you at all. You're alien to me, a machine my brain can't puzzle, an Italian come-on that sounds like a curse, a cough, a razor blade slipping between tongue and tooth. As you slept, I drifted off, finding myself on a pixel-poor Mars, with wind refusing silence, sun refusing shine, and I felt ok for the first time in years. So, I take each day as it is: moments connected by the framing that is me, that magic trick of connective memory, this permanent perspective, until it isn’t. You know that. You love that part of the trick - the way we look into the mirror, expecting to find reflection, but find the open crash and endless arms, yanking down to conclusion.
Forgive me this kerosene and flare - they're all I have, on such short notice. I didn’t expect you, humping in from forever’s blanket, and the stove is cold, as is the day, as are we, are you? You're shivering like a liver, a chicken disrobed, would you like another layer? Or do you enjoy the chill giving way to shapeless warmth, apoptosis’ hurrah? No, you probably don’t - you’re the warm-blooded type. Here, let me count the missteps of your helix, pluck the petals of your hound’s head, whatever we can do to bat away the night. In the nitrate light of the here-now, we must look like shadows. Last night, in the mess, I stirred my soup for an hour, just to feel the broth lap back on my spoon, proof of nature’s laws: motion in all things. My face was ceaseless, I couldn’t slow it down, the chicken cubes skittering over my cheeks, oil veiling my eyes. I see myself in you, is it too soon to say, or is it too late, you’ve only just arrived. You've waited a forever at aphelion, furthest from me, from what we are together. So you can come a bit closer. Let me see your sideways grin. Have a swig of this. You can breathe now, please.