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Justine el-Khazen

Say their names…
for Shaker Aamer

Where to begin? With the taste in your mouth
of me or in my mouth? A body
you can’t do without? There’s no way
to say the stem of your tongue
enters a vowel
without wounding someone,
maybe a livid sky seen by so many people at once,
your life tenderly broken…

The country dips its head in candlewhite,
your body ribboned
& seduceable: chalk of stars
in your blood, the slippery squid of your heart
pumps some unknowable deep. Still you cannot grieve
enough or really feel the permission
of your body: the rubycolored
cloister of your mouth & mind ranging
in ether, torn parachute of a cloud
on a mountain you’ve never seen
& details of your day…

You climb a hill
in the park, the light unbalanced
hands of the trees fading into colorless gold
before they let go the leaves
& try to figure your connection:
the viviparous bodies
of words, cleanpink mouths
of animals, nerves splayed in the shape of treetops,
deltas… You cannot say the broken circle
of this life
without hooking your own
beating heart or imagine your wandering
twentytothirtysomethings, mountains you skimmed
& deserts in breakups that zigzagged the country
somehow confined…

Where to begin? With the breath
you’re holding? Headful of steam in a kettle?
Who asks when you already have
or wonders why there are so many words,
a tiny dippedsponge in the brain
that produces them, flames at the temples
& never enough bodies to feel?
Cellared dreams & ancestors:
how you bent when you inhabited yours
towards others, dark treeanchored streets
to which your life seemed connected,

trees bent in the shape of memory…


Justine el-Khazen is a poet and artist whose work is informed by her belief in the power of media, technology and lyric poetry to raise and enrich political awareness. She teaches in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design in New York City and is a graduate of the Masters in Creative Writing program at UC Davis and of the Draper Program at NYU. Justine’s work has appeared in Matter, Beloit Poetry Journal and The Rattling Wall among others.


See the full list of 2014 Emerging Poets Fellows