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by Amal El-Mohtar
"Listen to the shooting," he said. "Can you hear it? It's hammering on us like rain." Omar, a protestor in Homs.
The world is wrong and I am wrung,
a bell of cloth dripping salt
into an earth too broken for roots.
I am a jumble, I am a heap,
a tangle of wires crosspurposed
and my voice is glass
and my voice is in the earth
and the rain is made of metal and mortar
and fire scorns water thin as air and the heat
melts skin. The world is wrong
and I am stung, I am raw to this wasp-air's buzz
to these teeth stacked like walls
against words, against tongues,
and I would tell these sons of men
something so shiningsharp that they would sing with it
hold the sun in a cup of their hands
but this glass voice breaks in my throat
and I would speak swallows with clear wings
to scrape an augury against the sky in splinters
but no one speaks glass.
My grandmother is a country I would know.
It is her name, her voice I hear
when I read this gold-cloth word
this sand-gold word, this sun-bright word
with its vowels askew in my alphabet,
this word of riches and gates, of grapes and roads,
of layers and music and dust. It is my grandmother's name
I hear breaking beneath numbers
beneath rain that heaves through bodies like grief
and nineteen, and eighteen.
I will not speak of my name.
I will not speak of your countries
of this language we share
that is not glass. I will not speak
of your smoke
and your silence
and the bullets stitching purpose to our backs.
My voice is in pieces
I cannot swallow.
But if you would hear it
I will put a sliver in your eye
slide it stinging into place.
It is glass. See through it.
Amal El-Mohtar is an Ottawa-born child of the Mediterranean, currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter, sharpening her quills for the hunt. Her short story, "The Green Book," was recently nominated for a Nebula Award. She is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of poetry and prose written to the taste of 28 different kinds of honey, and the winner of the 2009 Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem. Her work has appeared in many print and online venues, and is forthcoming in The Thackeray T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. She also co-edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry, with Jessica P. Wick, and keeps a blog somewhat tidy at Voices on the Midnight Air.
Read Amal's discussion of this poem at the Roundtable!
Photography: Smashed, by Andrew Thielen.