Who Needs Tinder When You Have a Muslim Registry? by Momtaza Mehri

beyond the dropping of last veils, i have nothing left to offer
        but a jittery right-swipe.
my iPhone screen is brighter than my future here
        or there. adjust. accordingly.
mama i made it – on a a list
        for the listless, the chosen ones,
citizens of NoManLandia.
dearest now marked outside provinciality. console myself with a prayer
            borders are for basic bitches anyway
mine are the woes of full bellies & impeccable Wi-Fi.
        everything i have become lies somewhere between because
        and in spite of.


finger hover over transnational fam. every country is a boy
        with veined hands. good grip on His rope.
steering the wheel to the next safe place - and the next.
        exhaustion is a luxury.
luxury is when your nightmares have a canon.
        if tomorrow is a friday wash your white socks
& read surah al kahf                  with me
remind me of boys in caves
        the lolling tongue of a guard dog
the hooded men who haunt my dreams.
        men i love from a safe distance.
these black hammers i hold reluctantly.
        their glowing names.


*syria as in shaam. left hand. masaken barzeh
        where we hung our baatis from the balcony.
sodden with musk & afternoon. dimashq baby.
        dewdrop cheek. no i never saw my own home
before its rupture but i saw you i promise i did.
            my uncles all 80s & high-waist pants & freshie
flower backdrop. this. their first stop. damascus.
            now they stare at the television & shake their heads
wallahi we never thought we’d see them running too
            shit they had it all. we had it all.


*iraan bubbled laughter pops inside his gums can’t help
        but be drawn to the saffron of gold teeth & coins.
zulfigar ring & knuckle & bone. all the times you sang
        googoosh to me - i confess i don’t know
the difference between your alphabet & mine.
        can read your script but do not understand it.
i don’t need to. rim my eyes
with your grandmother’s kohl in the backseat of a taxi.
        this too is a language.


            *sudaan where do i begin except where u end.
the dry towel to my loosened hair. loosened white thobe.
            no one paints henna like you.
darker than absence itself. a pregnant sun in each palm.
            you are the blurred line i cannot resist. waft of dukhaan rising under skirts.
            my own they joke
sudanis will say assalamu alaikum to anything that moves
wish peace on anything they touch
            with dimpled chins wear each wound
            loose.


*iraaq don’t know what to tell you except how i love
            the scruff of your vowels. that laid-back shino?
how ana leans out becomes ani
            becomes kathem al saher cassettes sold in markets.
you left one babylon for another.
            my green-eyed & always grieving.
your throat a procession. the face of my teenhood friend
who spoke of prisoners lowered into meat grinders
            & her father’s scarred back as we giggled
            over oreo milkshakes.


*yemen my right hand remember me
            the prophet told us how soft your hands are.
will always be. bread & saltah. a drop of oil
            no one will kill for. not much i can give you
but a gulf (of aden) girl looking for the bridge
of her father’s back. don’t wanna live a sepia-toned life.
                saba. queen sheba. motherlands in bible verses & what does this mean except maybe we were destined
                for this kind of hurting?


*libya & me. keats & his lamia. a gorgeous monster
                to feed me dates
while we recall how trouble always has an italian accent.
                the lean years & songs of tribesmen.
what do we have left when the fishermen fear the waters?
                my long-lashed joy.
jinn come out at night & this is my way of
                dropping hints
                walk me home.


*somalia weigh me down

yaa land of my landing
yaa everything i will always make excuses for
yaa jewelled armpit of memory
yaa banana & rice
yaa kufi caps & reddened beards
yaa YouTube reels of the golden decades
        i can never finish without crying
yaa satellite dish crackle
yaa distinguished in the art of never getting our shit together
yaa the child i could have become
the other version of me with a split-lip
& a longer hit-list.


Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and co-editor of the digital platform Diaspora Drama. Her work is featured and forthcoming in DAZED, Sukoon, Bone Bouquet, VINYL and Poetry International. She is a Complete Works Fellow and has been shortlisted for the Brunel African Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize. Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer will be published as part of the New Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. With a background in biomedical science, she has worked as a health educator, translator and language teacher. She tries her best not to believe in astrology or borders. Find her @ruffneckrefugee.