9/11 poem


She’s nervous at the museum
late and I’ve said hi to the director
asked the guard if I can take no flash photos

I reach for her hand to show her
A HORSE she says – in pencil
and then keeps calling out the things she sees

as if I don’t also see them
It’s a gazelle, look, the twisting horns
I don’t know animals she says

I think correct
On 9/11, hours from kissing at the door—
I in my undies, skateboard under her arm

I text to say let’s read in the park
but instead I watch the sky
watch how she reads my book

with a pen
At the museum she says
I always get yelled at by the guards

But why are you touching the art?
It isn’t that, they watch and I get too close
She points out a tower

two towers she says
in a miniature. There’s five towers I say
and two bombers

In the new hotel at the terminal
we lock in a day with no flight
the particulars of how we detonate and at what speed

the actual costly mood of the sky
the actual moonlight on waves
the sacrifice of another pair of undies

to the tide, which is so strong
we don’t have to lift our feet
to get knocked around

When I see crisis coming
she says disaster yes like a terrorist cell
you mean, like very effective, yes

I spot birds in paintings and in life
and she says you could
have been a pilot, so hot

and then I want you on my face
Everyone in the Northern hemisphere with melanin
is at their most beautiful in September

We send jellyfish
back out to the void
We fathom what we really think about drones

when we were arrested or surveilled
I like it that I can’t tell whose legs are
whose in this nugatory crossing

She says that’s the gayest thing
you’ve ever said and I say yes, yes, fine
reach your gorgeous mama hand

into my throat
stop me from speaking
stop me from praying




Qur’anic Asterisk


All these books
actually it’s many
hand-made copies
of one book

The change filter light winks
on the HEPA purifier
it wasn’t provided by the government
after 9/11

At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
near the Washington Monument
the Qur’ans are on display
in silent rooms
somebody spent a lot of time – years
to render stroke embellish them

The filter in the bedroom also alerts me
with a glowing red light
but I wouldn’t know where to begin
changing it

The cover of the 150 pound book
pulped wet and the dry scurry of bristle on it
worked in wood and lacquer
could be the seat of a chair the throne

The filter is on one side of the desk
the theory etcetera is on the other it goes Geneva, Capital v 1, KJB, Marx Reader, Sources of Indian
Tradition, Selected Subaltern Studies

The exhibit is about the people who laboriously copied these Qur’ans letter by letter

The ribbon is at an Excellent Song which was Salomon’s – the virgins
– they that are pure in heart and conversation – love thee

         you wrote the Qur’an as a sign of piety
         Draw me: we will runne after thee
         a meditative act: you notice human fallibility because:
                   god is infallible
       the joints of thy thighs are like jewels: the work of the hand of a cunning workman
if a calligrapher forgot a verse they’d put an asterisk where the verse fits in
mornings we brush the eyelashes and braided escapes from the sheets as we pull them taut
on the third line – do you see
it’s like
it’s like a little eyelash

and even with all the lamps lit it’s gloomy inside the construction-grimed windows
fat raindrops just hover like ghost dashes

The transcriptionist just forgot one something has happened or –
there was a wrong word and the calligrapher has covered it with gold

set me as a seal on thine heart & as a signet upon thine arm:
for love is strong as death:
and jealousie cruel as the grave

The Qur’ans are peepholes allowing us to peer back into the lives
of people we never knew
humility of artifact and of human life

regard ye me not because I am blacke or golde
but because I am a seat and a raft of mind:
for the sun has looked upon me
these tasks a gathering of monuments against
the corruption of nature
telling us the fuck what to do
in a world after Andalusia

I didn’t have it in me to take off my mascara last night
actually I never do
so there are wishes on my jaw
her finger

a newer filter might capture them
refer them a small star new moon pointer alert
filter change communication
dead astral message
eyelash asterisk
refer them to a forgotten verse
stellar slip a hazard






9/11 Poem

the paintings described are from Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities on view at the Morgan Library in 2021


Qur’anic Asterisk

actually it’s many hand-made copies of one book and many other lines in this poem are citations of an interview between Steve Inskeep and Massumeh Farhad

the virgins and many lines following are from the facsimilie edition of the Geneva Bible and its marginal exegesis