2019 Antioch Fellowship, 1st Place Winner: Haematology #1 by Momtaza Mehri
So excited, we can barely hold it! Here it is: Momtaza Mehri’s wonderful, supremely evocative poem that convinced us she deserved the fellowship prize and an all expenses paid trip to AULA’s MFA residency in Los Angeles this winter.
I tell you this because I am afraid. Not of tomorrow but of what I am capable of.
How quickly a weeping sinkhole turns into a butchery. Hooyo’s sticky palms.
Summer ’02. Her open hand an anvil over crumpled wings. A mosquito bursting.
What I want to tell you is that I am familiar with the evidence of romance on chalk walls.
The patterns a hand can make. Then unmake. The slow drool of a shattered body.
How quickly the tables turn. Dampened tissue to wipe off slaughter. Guilt lubricates.
The insect blood mingling with mama’s own. Just like that. She takes back what is hers.
Hurt as haemorrhage. Maybe that’s what we need, to make something suffer for its greed.
Suffering ain’t noble. You taught me this the hard way, in the crusted blood coating the mouths
Of goats. That summer in the old city when they followed me. A lost tribe. Follow me.
They’d chewed through barbed wire, through thorns, through their own hearts. I left them
As they left me. Alone and unforgiving. Outside the bakery, the man at the counter opens
Another wound. He is slick with loss. Child that I was, I did not know
How hard they liked their biscotti. Hard as life itself. Hard enough to splinter a baby molar.
Dot my dress with pink spots. The blush of sacrifice. I rinse my gums with even harder water.
To the sound of the compound’s heaving chest, I rise. What lingers in the jugular vein stays there.
I could explain but I won’t. I have a deep suspicion of home as a noun, its absolute absoluteness.
Out here we live in quarts. Live liquid lives. Contain what cannot contain us. I digress.
Let’s live in digression. We have no other choices.
Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and radio scriptwriter. She is the co-winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the winner of 2019 Manchester Writing Prize. Her work has been widely anthologised and has appeared in Granta, Artforum, Poetry International, BBC Radio 4, Vogue and Real Life Mag. She is the former Young People’s Laureate for London and a columnist-in-residence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Open Space. She has authored two chapbooks, and is currently working on Doomsday Gossip, an art book edited with Hannah Black, and her debut poetry collection.