Monday, July 20, 2020

Mehnaz Sahibzada


A red bird sat squat
beneath my mailbox
like a bomb about
to explode. It gazed up
at me as though it knew
I was capable of falling.
I opened the slot.
It was all junk mail.
The bird shifted tersely
on its plume, waiting to
be left alone. The year
had been a surge of face masks—
a market virus, the
wrath of turgid cops.
My nerves were shot.
I wondered if the bird
was injured or tired or maybe
hiding from the heatwave
of the afternoon.
I sifted through coupons
craving silence.
I blamed noise,
sheep, and those shiny
media pundits. That fiend
on a plane who once
barked, Girl, you need
to brush your hair.

The criminal who told me,
It’s easy to pretend
and the militant who shouted,
You don’t worship hate
, and the truth is
I don’t know how to talk about
cynicism. Five years ago,
I decided to be as moon
as night. Now
my memories of injustice
sleep inside a coven
where innocents burn
like cloistered suns.
The witches croon,
On the fractures
inside the skull of America
they’ve built a stripmall
that will get raided by
I want to know how
this red bird sits mute when
the year has been so loud.
Just last week I thought
I saw the same bird
nuzzling its head against
a weeping black tree that had
been reminded how
little we understood
when a postman walked
by wearing a veil,
his bag of junk mail
chanting, Buy two, get
one free
, and the city
strangling itself so kindly
as though every
mean bruise were an act
of love, and the
roses suddenly growing
backbones and
shouting, We can no
longer cultivate quiet.

Mehnaz reads "Quiet":

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Mehnaz confesses: "'Quiet' is an introvert’s response to the loudest year in history."

MEHNAZ SAHIBZADA was born in Pakistan and raised in Los Angeles. She is a 2009 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, such as Liminality, Moira, The Literary Hatchet, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Her first full-length collection, My Gothic Romance, was published in April 2019 by Finishing Line Press. A high school English teacher, she lives in southern California. To learn more about Mehnaz, visit her at


Inyiama Neche said...

It's perfectly laid out.
Good job!

JJ Stickney said...

Nicely done.