Nadra Mabrouk


Two gray sheep can only live so long
in your kitchen.

Your father, uncle and grandfather
drag the two sheep
past the hallway.
Holiday dinner breathes
and smells of wet wool.

Mother takes you to be bathed with your sister.
Together, you sit cross-legged
in the hot water
and you, while washing her hair,
start speaking.

Her small head meets your palms
and your nails are too short to scratch
into the scalp.
You hold the small flow of urine inside of you
before it changes the color of the water
and ask her whether she knows why the sheep are here.

She shakes her head
and your lower stomach fat folds in weakness
to control the bladder.

You imagine your sister and yourself in their place
feeling your neck pretending your hand
were as thick as the butcher’s.

They’re going to kill them when the butcher is here.
You say tradition, mispronouncing it
but saying it as a little urine slips out,
not enough to change the water.
Hooves start gnawing into the floor,
their bleating breathless
as though calling to apologize
for never watching over each other.

You run back into the bedroom
where it is warm. The blood
never reaches this far
but you imagine the pulp of it, their open mouths,
the small square teeth of a toddler.


Lorenzo feels disoriented after dozing off.
“That’s the problem with flying,” he says.
“Everything’s just hanging.”
I am staring at the bleeding slit
in the sky behind the wing, the leftover light
pinched into a thin scratch, thinking someone
must be able to tell the time just by the shape
of its bend,
but that person must be asleep now
cradled on the lap of a shaking hour.
Lorenzo keeps laughing and dozing off
until i wonder if
he is laughing at something only he can see.
The children behind us are creating
a prayer for the water we see below.
They want us to slip into it
like clouds, sensitive organs of unheld crystals,
waiting for return.


Nadra Mabrouk holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida International University, and is a two-time scholarship recipient of the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College. Her work has appeared in Best Teen Writing of 2010, published by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Jai-Alai, RHINO and others. Her chapbook, How Things Tasted When We Were Young, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in spring of 2016.