Closed Universe

Where to begin — with the taste in your mouth
of me or in my mouth? With the taste

of nothing, no sugars licked
from oozing love glands, vermillion orchardfuls
of late fruit you buy never thinking
of the trees whose sap drips into nonexistent
underworlds, of the storms — hotter and brighter
before Christmas, our minds healed
on New Years by the anticipation
of clean white snow…

You insert a little star here — *
for the time your heart splintered, how
you wanted to carry the memory like a burden
but couldn’t, complicated smokeless events
no one sees — the shape of a bird
is auspicious
but not the presence of one…
A lifetime ago, the soft fires
inside clouds meant being alive — how you
concealed your tears on the train,
scavenged for fries at work, came home
and knew someone had been there,
watched the horizon for moving stars…

Now a boat behind a blue curtain
is what you call a horizon
and mean some things you know, a feeling
you can name: you learn not to expect
silence at the end, or ask
whether you’re free
if the late embers appear to burn
for you…

You could have begun
with the slippery squid of your heart,
a star nursery, the rich iron in your veins,
tiny claw of a sail in your lung —
is it a burr? Something you can’t
cough out… Birds reappear too,
their wings slicing some clay — a depression
visible in clouds, the money
you spend on dark tea and how dark
a thought appears in natural light…

*

Justine el-Khazen teaches at Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She lives in Brooklyn.

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