Four Pieces

Issue 2

by Safa Khatib

Note: This work is best viewed on a widescreen device.

Jump to: I. The Anticipation of WinterII. If Never WithIII. At Mary’sIV. One Shore, Then Another

I. The Anticipation of Winter

Before the promise of paradise, the knowledge of Eve––
The light was not blue but violet. A voice I remember,
Sumerian, approaching red, raised, resembling
yours. The riding crop against my skin I asked for, I wanted that––
that you come home and welt my lifted thighs. You did.
My clit: the nothing that is.
                                                This world. No promise but presence.
Becoming your disciplined slut, I found such kindness
in that pain, that realm of awe. A simple scene, not final––
paradise revised, repetitious. Come with me. Don't hesitate.
Memory outlasting Possession, becoming Myth.
Some say we never happened. Some say we happened
over and over. I'll go as far as you'll take me
out of hell, or in. Yes, doll, I'll hold you there.

II. If Never With

"Except the face of the divine, everything is vanishing"
says Al-Qasas, the surah of stories. So persistent our fear
of impermanence that we invented the absolute. And how
could I have known that for days now it would be the thought
of your pain, not mine, that excites me. I want to go back
and forth between eating you out and caning your palms,
I text in the morning, the cock cage
                                                                you dressed me in
heavy under my jeans. Everyone here is you, you, you.
Hour by hour, "I" was the need for relation. I made my body
do what I wanted––or I obeyed its demands. Dream was
the engine of intellect. You text: "Baby, you have a mind
to hurt me, don't you?" I think of your tongue in my muff.
My breasts ache. I reply: "Let me know when."

III. At Mary’s

Dream-pop, oak walls, a ceiling lined with steampunk flowers.
I’m beside you, watching bad porn on the TV above the bar.
There are other lives I might have lived. Sometimes anatomy
is a ruse, a spectacular impatience. I'm in love with that green thong.
Nature is possibility. Under certain conditions, an idea can penetrate.
The actors cum. I remember Amina calling me from Bangladesh:
"I have the hormones. You must take care of me. Tell me what to do."
I think the lure of autonomy terrifies us.
                                                                You're in love with Josephine,
the name you’ve given to perpetual disappointment. My mother often said
“you must be careful with impulses.” She was in love with the neutral.
The night she died I awoke in the kitchen to the open door of the microwave.
The eye of science. Nostalgia is instructive. The maddening
traces of some suffering inhabit the mind like melody.

IV. One Shore, Then Another

Now thought assumes the color of time with you:
an interruption in the florid darks of the city––
sudden, sourceless. Someone walking by in the street
keeps saying "come here" to someone out of view.
I can hear them run toward each other or away.
You are two rooms away, painting. My eye can't choose
between the surfaces of this one.
                                                                I want to walk in
and tell you something about those Spanish horses
alone on an island in the Carolinas. A shipwreck in 1580,
then centuries of wild horses. Bewilderment, then despair,
then wonder––that isn't their story. They are not
the horses of Achilles. They do not weep for us…
I think they are gorgeous, our solitudes.

Safa Khatib is a poet and translator living in St. Louis. Recently, she wrote an essay on Sofia Samatar’s The White Mosque and translated a selection from Suleiman Bustani’s preface to his 1904 translation of the Iliad.