Sarah Ghazal Ali


My pillaged body
not as interesting
as my virginal sister’s,
I know. Your books
efface me, dismiss me
as naturally lacking.
So my hair has long
since greyed, cropped
short, held back
under a matronly veil.
So I sent my husband to bed
another woman—I’m more noble
for it. I allowed a slight
to get the ball rolling.
I gambled my marriage
for a covenant.
By moonlight I grieved
the perpetual
blood marbling red
& black down my thighs.
They visited me first,
you know. God
& two angels came
with glad tidings,
announced I would flower
with a boy. But
all you remember
is what came next—
I hung my head & laughed.
When God at last
conferred my body
with fruit, the angels
raised their yellow wings.
They broke bread.
I listened until I heard
a great humming.
A child, a ripe boy
I would mother. The hive
coming to me
after all I’d done—
what else inside
to offer at the moment
of absolution but a flash
of sound? I knew
I wasn’t favored
but damned. My whole
long life I’d been groomed
to unfurl for the coming
of bees. I knew
when I passed he
would go back to her
& you to your Mater Dei,
your lily among thorns.
After all this, knowing
I’d be written
over, a vessel forgettable
but for a moment of sonic
lapse, tell me—
what would you have done?


that first August, blood dotted linoleum
an apple bared its wayward stench

I sucked my finger & tested
a clipped word on my tongue then a blush

a kitchen performance an approximation
of American freedom can anything private be vulgar?

then what use of my feckless mouth?
God simmered below the limen of sight

even the apple brought here by force & forced then
to fit malus domestica the domestication of sin

I lived briefly unwitnessed
touched only by evening shadows

my silhouette caressing the door

Sarah Ghazal Ali is a Bay Area poet and Editor-in-Chief of Palette Poetry. She obtained her MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was a Juniper Fellow and MFA Fellow. Her poems appear in or are forthcoming from Pleiades, Narrative, Waxwing, Tinderbox, and others. Find her here and on Twitter @caesarah_.