Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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Ramadan Nocturne

The overpass’s graffitied asphalt
drapes heavy shadows over cars

always on their way elsewhere,
while the humid city continues

to glisten with the bodies of men
& women, men & men, women

& women shimmering across each
other: all taut muscle, untouched

crevice still hidden by cotton or lace,
wet back of knee naked or clothed

by so many soft or calloused palms,
fingernails bitten down to the quick

or scraped down a sweat-brocaded
torso. Forget the sounds of glass

shattering, the alleyways I hurry
past, hunger a thin blade knifing

my body cleaner. Forget the shadows
of bodies pressing against bricks

bright with fungus green as a ribbon
a young girl might twirl between her

fingers after shaking her dark hair
free. Forget this schizophrenic I still

see, years now—forget his voice
burning past me. Bitch, I need

you. Bitch. I need, I need, he moans,
& though I know it’s not me he wants,

the night is a varnished, peeling wall
against which I, too, want always

to be roughly pressed. How many
other nights he’s stumbled across

this heat-neoned sidewalk, pleading
with someone else who isn’t there—

I’d like to lead him somewhere, maybe
offer him a smoke, calm his shuddering,

but I’m too afraid: afraid of the dark
stains rivering shadows on the clothes

hanging his gaunt frame, afraid to admit
I’m just another privileged girl sitting

back to count the world’s endless sorrows.
Cars blast by: earthquake of bass, crackle

of hard voices strafing the hot air heavy:
thigh, throat, clavicle, crook of elbow,

curve of breast, bitch, I need, I need
& there’s no forgetting those summers

spent sleeping underground in that peach-
carpeted basement, no forgetting how

my sister’s small body was still safe
& warm beside me the night I heard

footsteps that weren’t mine, hers, or our
parents. I took her smaller hand in mine,

waited until dawn, when the footsteps
finally ceased: dream-summoned or

ghostly, I will never know. But what
does that have to do with lips, vulnerable

tug of earlobe, palms pressed down
on palms? I need, I need, & the hunger

inside me is not for food but for flesh,
& there’s no forgetting that the body

belongs neither here nor anywhere, not
in childhood’s bed nor the adult one I slide

alone into after praising again Your name,
Lord. As if anything ever belonged to us,

as if even him or his body I invite into
my own belongs—as if this man I still see

roaming the streets is some sign You sent
that will change my life if only I paid more

attention. As if he belongs only to my life,
rather than his own. Answer me, Lord—

why my sister is now the ghost I imagine
stepping lightly across the fresh-mopped

floors of strangers, their children below
still breathing quiet through long summer

nights brushed red with the adagios
of cicadas. Tell me why being human

must be so lonely. Why this man I cannot
help but turn to watch turns now to no one

beside him, tries to embrace whatever
phantom no longer belonging to a body.

Tell me why You made it so that taking
a kiss full on the mouth also feels like

weeping: the helpless swell, its delicious
spill. I need, I need. Take, then, as You

took her, too: take the morning’s sandpaper
sunlight in which I will wake again to offer

You another day of hunger. Take from me
its razored insistence thrumming inside this

body You made for any manner of breaking.    

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