Kazim Ali

“I do not know” is stamped indelibly on my passport so I am marked always for further interrogation.

Adam, named for the first man, asks me again and again, “What are you doing in our country?”

I tell him, “My intention was to go to the city called Hill of Spring and paint my nails gold.”

Risen again from the ocean floor the rocks declare a state of emergency.

He asks me again and again as if my answer would change, so each time I try to change it.

“I come to dress myself in the salt of the sunken sea.”

Pine nuts rain down from the outraged trees.

“I come to write my name down in the peals of bells sealed in a crease of the still-fallen wall.”

The army has learned twenty-six different words for “no.”

Wild fires leap from tree to tree.

Water shrinks back from its table in shame.


Read more poems, essays, and fiction from the May/June 2017 issue by purchasing a print or digital copy here.

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