Well of course I’ve tried lavender. And pulling my memory out, ribbonlike and dripping. And shrieking into my pillow. And writing the poems. And making more friends. And baking warm brown cookies. And therapy. And intimacy. And pictures of rainbows. And all of the movies about lovers and the terrible things they do to each other. And watching the ones in other languages. And leaving the subtitles off. And listening to the language. And forgetting my name.  And feeling the dirt on my skin.  And screaming in the shower.  And changing my shampoo. And living alone. And cutting my hair. And buying a turtle. And petting the cat. And travelling. And writing more poems. And touching a different body. And digging a grave. And digging a grave. Of course, I’ve tried it. Of course I have.

yasmin belkhyr
September is a weary month

a man slaughters a goat

March 28, 2019

In my earliest memory, a man slaughters a goat in my bathroom. In Rabat, I am nameless, another Moroccan girl to be looked at but not seen. When goats cry, it sounds just like a baby. I couldn’t list all the terrible things we do to one another.  I remember the goat kicking out, frantic. The shattered mirror. The stumbled prayer. I was sick every visit: my stomach heaving dirty water. I would cry and everyone else would tsk, murmur American. Once, I kissed someone and I’m afraid it ruined the world. I’ve learned that it’s not what you do with the knife — it’s how you hold it after. But how do you hold something like that? Something that never stops baring its teeth; a voiceless dog, all bite, no bark. I remember very clearly that I never saw any blood. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know what to do with a knife. I didn’t even know what to do with that mouth.

Yasmin Belkhyr
Surah Al-Fatiha,


March 26, 2019

My aunt miscarried four times,
and after each one, she took me to Chinatown
in the city, and we would watch the gloved men gut
fish after fish after fish as if it meant something.

She carried all the ultrasounds for years after,
with names and the expected dates of birth scribbled
on the backs, and on the train ride home, she’d clutch
the bag of headless fish close to her body, and softly,
rub her finger over the worn leather of her wallet,
where the faint memories of life gathered dust inside.

My uncle used to burn hundreds of matches
on the front porch, and the first time we came home,
he stared at my aunt’s stomach and stumbled backwards,
something immense, something too big to understand, to describe,
quaking inside of him. He stopped burning matches
and started burning flowers, instead.

My aunt carries him too; in the way she walks,
stooped over, with this gentle sorrow pulling her
into the floor like sand.

Salma, May 17th 2003
Laila, November 29th 2006
Sophia, January 4th 2007
Hanna, August 23rd 2011

Four seasons for four daughters;
every day, dawn is the time for grief,
dawn is the moment where my aunt can finally sob
under the weight of the world, a 34-year-old Atlas
with a home empty of children, and a body that deemed
her unfit; I have grown into a family of grief, a life
in which mourning and morning mean the same thing.

She said once: I am a shell, and you can hear
the ocean sputter and cough in my bones; I swear,
I would swim, if I weren’t already sinking.

Yasmin Belkhyr