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Washed in the silver of shrapnel, I

found you. The pupil of moon glowering

above you. The remnants of a life.

I remember you turning spins

blankly, button-eyed, the yellow

bulb of a daffodil caught in your hair—

the glint of a throwing star.

What was it like for you—

before the swerve? Everything

so taut and free at once, the graceful curve

of road ahead, a bend in the street like the arch

of your back, the dip of your waist.

His damning grasp on your thigh.

The golden-hour drape of sunlight

from the window, limning him in amber.

And you, starling, a pained doll

in the slow dusk. I watched you

back away from the wreck, the gutted

hood of his Corvette: open

shell of a clam, pearling metal.


The keys slip between my fingers like quicksilver.

It’s a fragmented sort of dance, to lean so heavily

Into this unraveling,

Wrists waltzing out a stuttering legato.

The melody falls into my skin, brushing

Death against an open hand.

Across oceans, fire blossoms again, rising

From a desecrated grave.

People fall and bloom in death,

A breath away from becoming

Roses and carnations.

Tears, too, are quicksilver:

Petals like slow-poison pearl, painting

Rivulets against my skin.

Fantaisies run pink and white and then

A charred rose gold,

The dark fire of burning flesh.

There’s grief, like lead, between moments

As the sustain pedal falls, shudders.

The air vibrates, dense with longing, and the music

Folds into itself:

Cherry-wood varnish coiled tight.

The harmony shifts into its second section,

Soft and flowing against

A viscous honeyed bass.

On the other side, the city lingers, listless

The air languid with mosquitoes

And the on-off cut of staggered electricity

A broken staccato—

Like gunfire, or the steady beat

Of shovel

Into grave.


cratered promises and

slack-faced canyons—here

the imagination falters,

bleeds itself white, becomes

an agoraphobe.

as children we would carve

faces into the sandstone, but here

no sculptor has tried his hand: we see

only the blistered pink shoulder

of a mountaintop, her red kohl melting

until her likeness becomes

a counterfeit landslide

of shale, silt, ribcage.

in summer we stand before

our arid, moonless canyon,

imagine for ourselves

a sluiced rain, falling

in fevered sheets

against the sediment—

nursing the first of june’s flowers

yet once more the image wilts

into its vast banality, vapid,

a bone land: each purloined snatch

of life milked dry within our airless

hothouse, this cavern

and its skeleton, parched.


She anoints the body and its sundanced skin,

Braided rays in the window slats of her ribs.

From the east, a smokeless fire flowers

In dawn’s aperture, the minaret of sky

And her dome, arched back hallowing

The next unsung prayer.

She lets the spirit claw its way

Out of the shrine, this body, the skin

A gold-wash tessellation: The bone now

Her solace of black stone.

Coaxed, once again, the muezzin call

Kisses sun-drenched bronze to life.

Mishal Imaan Syed is an undergraduate at UCLA studying English, creative writing, and cognitive science. Her work has appeared in Westwind, Open Ceilings, and Underwood Press. In her free time, she fluffs her hair, daydreams, and plays classical piano.

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