By Jenny Sadre-Orafai:
There is a pregnant bird in the cup.
Malak looks at me like she has never looked
at that in a cup before. My father looks at me
like there are things I’m not telling him.
She crochets baby caps, square blankets,
booties in Neapolitan ice cream colors.
If I ever have these babies, if I’m the bird
in the cup, I’ll want to devour them.
After the last reading she leaves the cup turned up,
daring the bird to forget I was pregnant.
I felt for mountain
and ocean, my first globe.
Mouth or beak. Arm or wing.
Skin or feather. Feet or feet.
Who brought these to me
to dress in booties and caps.
I didn’t ask to know a belly
I didn’t ask if it was girl
or boy or bird.
LANGUAGE OF SIGNS
I slept the whole day
without remembering, Malak.
I dreamt I had a son
growing so fast,
a tomato plant sprawled
I held him at my hipline.
And I fed his hunger.
Now he’s a pitcher
Today’s poems are from Malak (Playtpus Press, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Jenny Sadre-Orafai, and appear here today with permission from the poet.
Malak is an invocation of past and future. With familial lament and childish wonder, the words lay tribute to the infinite—to the beauty in descent and the heartache that binds us to place. To our smallness in death and the importance of conjuring anew.
Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of Paper, Cotton, Leather and five chapbooks. Her poetry has appeared in Cream City Review, Ninth Letter, The Cortland Review, Hotel Amerika, The Pinch, and other journals. Her prose has appeared in Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, South Loop Review, Fourteen Hills, The Collagist, and other journals. She is co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.
Editor’s Note: Birds, tea leaves, foxes. If there are talismans that illuminate the path Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s Malak lays out for the reader, these may be those divining objects. There is magic within these pages — the kind that is conjured up in Gypsy tents and over old world kitchen tables, magic from a time and place when women were believed. But the future is always uncertain, and the tales that unfurl within Malak‘s pages curve and splinter like the lines on a palm.
What is inheritance, this collection asks. What is lived? What is lost? Do we inherit even that which cannot be passed down? Are predictions only as good as their fruition?
Malak is a book that pairs loss with beauty, future with past, the certainty of fate with the unknown and the unknowable. Throughout its pages, a sense of familiarity is established that both grounds and destabilizes. Its stories are told in the dark of night, but under the light of a full and generous moon. When Malak‘s truths reveal themselves, you bask in their luminosity and marvel at the careful magic of their making. You do not ask if they are boy or girl or bird.