Poems: Momtaza Mehri

Illo for Momtaza Mehri's poems.

Netflix & Chill

Statistically speaking, my brothers die with the regularity
Of TV dinners in the winter.

Jesus, I mean Isa, you’re a trip. The kind that involves the random selection
Of my heartbeat. Lick the smile off my plate.
Floss your teeth with the thread of my arterial.
In the name of a politeness that ladders my tights,
I bite my tongue. Until you touch me there. No. Not there.

We are watching Janet’s Velvet Rope tour, or hanging from it,
Our talk drifts from labia piercing parties to the folds of her hijab,
The glittering mud of the matter.

Erect a plaque above the place I first got smacked in the mouth.
Outside my own home, that is.
Begging to differ is still begging,
My daddy’s daddy once said,
Before they sprayed a bullet into his head,
and spat at his wife’s feet.

Wink Wink

;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

This time it happened after evening prayer. Qayloola.
Resting. Ice tea through sugared straws. The night a cascade ahead. Then,
a line break. Hot spray of bullets and reverb and and and and and and

In less than thirty minutes, we/they/the land lose twenty of its children A car is rammed into a restaurant, opens a bursting sun into a woman’s chest. Then: a feed, a timeline, a breaking story and every other way the expendable are condensed into character limits. The unmournable die long before their hearts stop. Bless their gorgeous simplicity. It is what it is. I pull inwards. Unwind my coiled gut. Check my phone. A glass screen mists up in all the worst ways.

Remind me of when WhatsApp became an arena for condolences. Sneakers lynched from telephone wires. Kerbsides of lung. Unticked messages like a hand to the hob. Both got that amber tinge that wants me gone. My father will reply in fifteen minutes, approximately. A fifteen-minute window where I do not know if he is still alive or not. He will thank God and his luck respectively.

The wink emoji is his favourite. He deploys it with no sense of irony.

;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

This time it isn’t him. This time it’s someone else.
Forgive me for always wanting it to be someone else.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

‘But in our yearning we learned, suffering ain’t noble.’
—Sekou Sundiata

Don’t ask me to explain. I don’t trust myself with my own sadness.
Can’t tell you the difference between an orgasm and the War On Terror
Or which re-runs are worth catching.

I sit in poetry workshops that cost as much as a month’s worth of meals
For a family of six back home. Laugh with me.
I complain about white men tugging at my self-worth
while the well of my grandmother’s village dries up.
I can’t stand the smell of my words.
Nobody gives a fuck about the detritus of my goodwill.
In the pursuit of the passport I so regularly misplace under my bed,
Men wearing my brother’s face are drowning. Everything sinks to the bottom.
Even the monthly shreds of my uterus. Doesn’t make it less unnatural.

The boys I grew up with are serving time and I’m serving Instagram looks,
and calling it reclamation of something or the other.
Syntax is a bitch, ain’t it? Body is to flesh as smoke is to fire.

Please don’t leave me. Promise I’ll be more interesting.
I’ll invent an absent father. A pit of hunger.
I’ll give you the totality of my insignificance.
I’ll call you daddy in the same sexual tone I reserve for the landlord.
I’ll get a therapist.
Anything more is a promise I’m afraid to keep.
Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and co-editor of the digital platform Diaspora Drama. Her work is featured and forthcoming in DAZED, Sukoon, Bone Bouquet, VINYL and Poetry International. She is a Complete Works Fellow and has been shortlisted for the Brunel African Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize. Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer will be published as part of the New Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. Some of poems here will appear in Ten: Poets of the New Generation, to be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2017.

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