AFTER THE BREAKAWAY
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.
FANTAISIE IMPROMPTU AND A BROKEN CITY
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
cratered promises and
the imagination falters,
bleeds itself white, becomes
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.