Monday, June 2, 2014

Mehnaz Sahibzada


Every time I write, I sense his hand sliding
up my thigh. Blackening each metaphor, he hammers
my good-girl past until it shatters like a glass mug.

I can't shrug him away. One night in Lahore
when I was fifteen, he climbed beside me in bed,
fastened a palm around my wrist. It was the only

time I saw his face, the square brown chin
and espresso-stained grin, the cunning smile that
colonized my head. I said, when I get back

to California, I'll grind you up like a bean. But
he just waved a palm-sized cross and proposed.
I said yes, of course. Still he stood me up

for prom. I wore the ruby dress with the side
slit and waited on the porch. Waited and waited
until my thoughts took off their heels and like a corpse

stood still. For months he did not show. I spent
the evenings sketching black tulips, drinking coffee–
the cafĂ© the one place he was likely to be–the air

prayer-whipped with the nuns who liked to visit,
play chess in the corner. There the lighting was
lunar. One night, reading a ghost story in the back,

my thoughts woke electric. I put on lipstick,
pressed it on even too. His hand gripped my neck.
The fear delicious, the joy rose up so fast,

I couldn't move. If I stay, he said,
you’ll carry delusions, make mad like
Edgar Allan Poe. I told him I wasn't the kind

of girl who wanted a rose. He laughed at my quiver,
handed me a silver ring, something gothic. We
didn't kiss. It would have been uncouth

with the nuns watching. But the verdict
was in. My conscience mugged by a thief, I was
wife to spinning dark, to gunfire on the street.

Mehnaz reads "Muse Noir":

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Mehnaz confesses: "Since the muse is often imagined as a positive feminine figure in western mythology, I wrote this poem to explore its opposite: a morally ambiguous, masculine muse. To engage this dark urban muse, the speaker of "Muse Noir" transforms herself into a femme fatale of sorts."

MEHNAZ SAHIBZADA was born in Pakistan and raised in Los Angeles. She is a 2009 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her short story, "The Alphabet Workbook", appeared in the August 2010 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Her poetry chapbook, Tongue-Tied: A Memoir in Poems, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press.

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