Broken Ghazal of Night Here
This small city draws its hot wings near its body
to perch inside itself. Night here soaks bodies
in their own waters. Out on the porch goes everybody
with cool amber bottles for forgetting,
one by one out to meet the dark
like a string of lamps turning on.
All my life I thought hurt should split my body
so I would know the body.
When it did, bone gone from skin,
gaze gone from body, street
under body, metal into a body, I did not know
it still. My friend was in jail at the crux of this city, his body
mute as an unlit bulb. Not the body who sins, but punished,
the body. My friend is free now (but the body
is not free) and we go out on the porch
at night. We wear thin clothes and our bodies
shine. Somewhere beneath the current
of talk in the heat is each person’s grief.
As if beneath the babbling river a body.
My old life is here like another body in a thin slip
and beneath it the hairs on her body
are grasses from the bristled plain of the past.
She follows me down the street.
Nameless, the body follows the body.
The trees are withholding their green
somewhere beneath the night.
Previously published in MELUS.
Shamala Gallagher is a Kundiman fellow and the author of a chapbook, I Learned the Language of Barbs and Sparks No One Spoke (dancing girl press, 2015). Her poems and essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Missouri Review, West Branch, Verse Daily, The Offing, The Rumpus, and many other journals. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. This spring she lives in Cortona, Italy.