Poetry: Faith is Tonal by Maya Mahmud

Maya Mahmud’s “Faith is Tonal” is an epic miniaturized: a mystical performance of music in language, in our bodies, in the flights of birds shining like facets of one great gem. Loosen your grip and fall into the spinning sound—let your individuality fall away into past-tense.


Faith is Tonal

three faces hanging around my neck form
distant ineffable colors,

manifesting a half crescent moon
under a dove with two beaks—

pearl white feathers fall hither
in an arch—arrows eastward.

inevitably, I find her
when I am too far away. So it goes,

the dove flies south. flight path forms
wonder above presence within

feeding twin beaks over-cooked
rumination, unfit for the nest.

drawn closer to stand from strides
on the ends of a blood-orange dawn,

eyes behind my closed eyelids
roll to the floor:

sin bent flustering of an emerald-
green mother tongue—

“learn a new language,
please, or don’t speak at all.”

what is the right
question? what do I need

to feel safe
in my own arms?

is this sacred labor
all that we are?

possibility inlays jewels to quicksilver
aforementioned stories

we pluck threadbare, again and again…
then ask another question.

the pendulum swings diagonal
pulling the flow along violet-pink beads

turning lunar-blue cool neon cylinders
our tongues can catch as present sound.

carvings monument
the voice of opal

a searing vibrato
barrels its way through my chest,

as her hands draw lines of longitude
around my soft throat,

my quaking limbs
ether bound in prayer of prayer

invoking, that trust could bend
around my finger like an engagement ring

—pearl white, proud and royal-blue
beside-the-point, aimful

for going outside myself—being
both listener and prophesier.

“steady the path, peace bearer,
off course has no bearing today.”

the oracles of opalescent psalms
sing with the lips of hibiscus.

faith is tonal: ringing patience
with the colors of uncertainty

as marigolds rise and fall, I remake myself;
the stars’ breeze singing change

for every directional future-footing,
remembrance made anew:

I was an individual,
now I am entirely unfeigned.



Maya Mahmud

Maya Mahmud is a public speaker, poet, and visual artist. She is a recent graduate of NYU's Media Studies program living in Brooklyn, NY. She has published works in Brio, NYU's comparative literary journal. She has an upcoming publication in Two Horatio Literary.

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