Small talk / The unthought has a comb

by Momtaza Mehri


Small talk

you michelangelo’s crouching boy/ you d’angelo’s purr/ you dead currency/ you dead presidents/ you a stick of incense/ you a stick-up artist/ you haraami/ you the hum of a lifetime basined in my lap/ count our tallies of loss backwards for me/ run to the bank & translate it into a lush of green of your choice/ or something else sanctified / or european/ pick the synonym of your choice.

in a traditional sense/ the body holds its arithmetic/ exports its outwards/ to the touch and exhale/ twinned and spent against a groan of concrete/ here, an elevator is our only spiritual ascension/ can i be excused from living so slimly?

i dream you closer too/ besides the honey-coloured dog licking its vulva/ a silent laugh swelling inside your throat/ ask me about blood clots and spun coins/ the cracked skin of heels/ anything but the nightly heartbreaks of / too many addresses/ and all the ways/ i am still auditioning/ for this country’s approval.

The unthought has a comb

Friday night communion looks like washing your hair as the water swallows your people.

Do it anyway. Two picks at hand, MANAFACTURED IN NIGIERIA,

the teeth a fine row of discipline.  Remind me. It hurts. It should.

Olive oil to drip down the elbows, the good stuff,

poured how you were taught. Slicken down the pauses. Shea—spit mix,

for the baby hairs,

set the helical right down to the lid.

Mama gave you a head of hair to write about,

the kind that’s a second passport. We all nurse our blessings.

A new-born dangles between his mother’s legs, the sea his first taste of salt.

This too, a blessing. A woman splits herself apart, an ankle in each time zone.

A meaning in none. 


Claim nothing more than each knuckle’s crack, the Lord’s work in each braid,

to the quick. Loop a finger in coil and split

the shore in half. Bring back those who left.

All their small deaths line the dressing table,

balanced on its lip, and floating.

Prick the greased scalp awake.  Takes a good two hours, sometimes more,

to set the waves in motion.


There is no ‘us’. You, untangling, from inside the island,

the child of rolled dice and fluke,

collapsing yourself into a guilt,

made for your own longing.