Persephone, An Immigration Story
I am born into this story of selves,
one that leaves the fruit to rust,
the other that cuts the sweet—
is coyote—I wish
I never knew the sound of howling.
In this version, I am more or less already
a daguerreotype under a long exposure.
In this version, the nectarines are ripe:
copacetic falling off the tree sweet
& I am a woman, not girl.
Woman with mother’s eyes,
woman with a maroon mouth—
woman with distances already inside me.
Forgive me for this disappearing act. Sorrow begets
sorrow & I know
why the clove blossoms no longer flower.
Call it what you will—violence, abduction,
a kidnapping by wolves—
That morning, the earth split apart like a mouth
& there I was
some foundling taken into its arms,
diving into the archipelagos,
a scattering homeland.
Mother, I still long for our Main Coon cat
& grandfather’s old records,
for my kitten heels
& tamarind paste & fresh cilantro,
for your dark hair
& evening languages,
every third prayer,
every bismillah that does not live here,
in this dark beneath the dark.
Sometimes I mistake faces in the halite —
there is only smoke,
the facsimile of a lost country,
where every season is now a refrain
of your sorrow.
I keep apologizing.
If you ask, I will say “terrifying
& nothing else.
How can I describe this country whose
in opposite directions, like gears shifting,
pulling apart the clay, the pith
& horsehair stitched into the earth.
heartache, cruel magician—”
Here is my palm. Here are the seeds.
This is my last
Because I know how a landscape
can break a body
into its fragments.
The seeds glisten.
Listen, I have crossed borders.
I will never be whole.
Soon the body will forget itself
& become another dream
of the same belonging.
At last, unroofed,
I travel vertical, charge into a motherland,
riven with arrivals.
Remind me how figs taste
on the side of a mountain,
how grain springs into gold,
& how wrens in the sky own everything
Take me away from this hive, this
this nightmare of crows
that weaves &
intersects this new moment of rest.
Alight my eyes with kohl. Read me epistles.
In the sun, everything
Perhaps this is the edge of waking,
when the body feels like oil over water,
or a body beneath
the nettles of a long rain,
the arils were so sweet
& the swallows so much like home.
Alycia Pirmohamed is a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying poetry written by second-generation immigrant writers. Her work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming in Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and wildness. She was selected for the 2018 edition of the Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology.