In the mosque she is dead and her body
is wound in white cloth. Two girls with wide
palms tell us of their gentle utility, of what
transpired in their closed and fragrant task.
I am alone in the presence of others who
knew her, inside the women’s room
where everything smells of children and
powdered milk and the distant severance
of burning tires. With my eyes I trace the
vines tessellating across the window,
when someone speaks her name.
A fracture in the vision, a schism of light.
When we speak again there are fingernails
in our words, troubling crescents of body
beneath the tongue. It was her chicken
pounded into barley, it was her sharp
keening toward joy, it was the way she
ran hard against the reverence that she felt.
We move carefully around these outlines,
these hanging figments that necessitate clarity.
I consider my thighs, the warped hem
of my headscarf, the meticulous array of my
glass-lined face. A Fula doll wearing indoor
fashion listens from beneath a bench, her
plastic eyes bundled like fists, her hair
a shock of static that tingles my scalp.
I decide there must be meaning in this
movement, we must refute the vistas
that in her death she missed. My fingers
twined like baskets, I wait for prayer.
Later, she is carried into the desert in the hands
of strangers and the stones placed across her body
gather like mineral clouds. I think of her motion,
of the ceaseless scud of her bounty, of how her direction
was always a drifting line. The strangers leave
and I wait in a wall of empty sunlight. My tongue particles
back to singularity, returning the sharp cuttings that never
belonged. Left behind I am the salt, I am the wayward blood,
I am the crude insistence of meat.
Natasha Burge is a writer from the Arabian Gulf. Previously the writer-in-residence of the Qal’at al Bahrain Museum, she is currently pursuing a PhD and working on a novel. Her work can be found in The Smart Set, Roads & Kingdoms, and Forge Literary Magazine, among others. More can be found at www.natashaburge.com