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A quarterly international literary journal

After I give you the great American novel




/ First Place, 2024 Plentitudes Prize in Poetry /      

at dawn on the balcony, clothesline strung

up with birdsong before light and clear shot

to our indigo hills, we set out early to drink

right from a river you say is still holy enough

 

to be clean. Noon, you shelter in God’s palm

fronds while I lift into the rusted metal lorry

bed, to pluck gold berries with a name I’ve lost.

As you flip the pages, I save those drops of sun

 

for times when dusk comes early, indefinitely,

as during war in a country that may not exist

much longer, but has mountains and shores

like this land where I should’ve been raised.

 

My feet back in ferric earth, you finish with

the tome I tied into our grandmother’s sari,

to still its spine in border crossing’s ricochet.

The book is too heavy in grief for one family,

 

you say. Still, I allow you to wrap me in the sari

for prayer. At dusk, ghosts emerge in the ritual

power cut, but I see well enough to recognize

love: your silhouette in smoke, holding sandals

 

above the river shrine, allowing my bare soles

to wander. By the bank, I leave our suns along

with my tongue as offering, returning severed

sister—my lost parts are the book’s every page.

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