Two Poems

while she rips out the seams of the brocade blazer i made for her

“And ghosts must do again / What gives them pain”
—W.H. Auden

we are half family half seed
…………half misremembered and wanting
i hear you at night
…………we are 85.5 miles apart
praying for the same things
…………the same threads struggle
to keep us sowed in
…………softly, together
and carefully apart
…………blood cradles
our cries like
…………soil inherited from heaven
your telephone voice
…………is turmeric-stained
and honey-sweet
…………the next life comes too
quickly, beti
…………over and over
this life has disappointed
…………the leaves out of the trees
call once a day
…………if you want me
conjured into bloom



taking food justice classes at teatro latea or a history of breathing

After Patrick Rosal

When Farmer Yon says “people have died,
you must breathe,” it is 4 am
on a rooftop in Lahore. My hand is as numb
as an ice-carved statue and I’m
looking at the stars because just like my
ancestors, I still don’t know their names.
Don’t know where the light comes from. I smooth
out my fingerprints until I am marbled, wake
my mother and we’re back in the States, I’m on
a couch with a sprained ankle, she keeps
saying “allah shafi,” blowing her petaled prayers
on to my foot. I’m wishing she had more than
empty words and turmeric. She tells me not to
tell anyone where the yellow stain is from and it’s
9/11 and my parents tell me I should take off
my hijab for two weeks, just in case, just in case
someone says something, just in case, someone gets
violent, just in case, I die over and over again.
Just in case, I lead a one-girl online crusade.
Just in case, I appoint myself Ambassador of Islam.
Just in case, I disappear into that role.
And I’m sitting across from a Southern woman
in Montgomery, Alabama asking me if I’m a
Mozzzlem. Asking her friend if she’s ever met a
Mozzzlem. But worse is that my friends don’t
know that I’m 25 and have never kissed anyone.
We’re talking about sex on Valentina’s porch,
spliffs, mosquitos, and whiskey buzzing. I go inside
to the bathroom so I can stop laughing along
to all the sex jokes and see my grandmother, 13,
on her wedding night, unlike most Pakistani brides,
she wears white. Before we can say salaam, I’m 12
and my dad is screaming at me because he found
out I was talking to a guy on AIM, he throws a
board game across the floor.
I breathe and I’m a germinating seed.
I breathe and I’m my grandmother.
I breathe and I’m the only one who can see the sunrise.
Crochet me into the sky if you can, felt us together,
loose enough to let the light through. The only
husband I’ll accept. My hands haven’t
left me yet and I think my ears are here too.

Angbeen Saleem is an artist, poet, aspiring farmer and filmmaker. She hails from the jawn that made jawn happen, played Othello once in a high school English class, and is a Pink Door Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Margins (the magazine of Asian American Writers' Workshop), Bayou Magazine, Blood Orange Review, Pigeon Pages, The Slowdown, underblong, and in other timelines of the multiverse. Follow her on Instagram (@angribeen) and Twitter (@angbe3n).