Burial of the Cloud

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