Aria Aber is a recent graduate from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her
work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lighthouse, Wasafiri, PANK, decomP, Best British
Poetry 2015
, and others. She serves as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal.

ode to glitter & council blocks
for aaliyah

in her voice it was always dawn.
it was always promise. the gooey fingers
in a jar of marmalade on the shellac
of celebrity cut-outs, or dozing in
the lazy naiveté of car radios & orange
juice pearling between thighs. we poured
glitter on our poverty & lipstick
on our council walls. life was something
for bandanas & french-kissing the tangerine
flesh. something for smearing honey
on each other's lips, for covering
our crop tops before our fathers. i'll tell
you something about haram: we recited
every handclap better than the qur'an.
leda sugar-waxed the golden film
from my arms, sunshine netting
her shoulders to the tinkle of the clarinet's
eyelash. am i supposed to change are you
supposed to change
we sing, thinking of
our parents. the body's linguistic: more like me,
your bellybutton empty, kiss me, rotate that hip
work the middle and kiss his thighs sing
rock the boat, whisper & touch
muscle after awkward muscle. yes: thread
her voice from the late summer playground
boom box to your lap-twisting tween retail job
like an otherworldly haze through the maze
of your girlhood. mistakes: being thirteen.
licking soda lollipops & running into
variations of r. kelly. i miss you. i believe
in you.
our hips still sway to the handclaps,
the lyrics rooting from our lips
like home. stay strong. this is just
the first plane crash to change our lives.
today, the council block breathes quiet
like an apology into my eye. we bury our lip-gloss.
we study the silence. how it teaches us that
when the body says woman, it becomes music.

the ownership of naming things

what once was feathered like a voice, a seduction
of finches, now is vigorous, bids me into the sun.

i am not less enough. once, a man unbuttoned
my spine into the purple noise of night, swore

you're not like them, look at how light your skin
. the muezzin punctured our howls to the lucid

blue wall above our heads, the eucalyptus leaves
posing a wilted array of golden fins. what strange

genius it takes for a cobweb inside a warm lamp,
this act of self-sabotage for quick sustenance—�once,

a man turned me over, pretended i was someone else,
pulled my hair by another's name. i understood

why. why exile means more than a flock of finches
drowning in a river, what the immeasurable expansion of space

has to do with an expanding past, why i was named
after a place, which is just another interpretation of holy.

once, i glittered blue as a gecko against a stranger's neck,
my hair inside his mouth revolving an organism of wet,

sandy eels—there is only so much you can tremble within
another's breath, if almost innocent. once, i waited two full

years for the ocean to lower itself, for a big shower of lucency.
it kept not happening. once, i forgot how to pray & then i learned

it again, an uncertain gossamer: bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim.
god, i say, my forehead kissing the flowered rug—i am not

exquisite. look at me. i am not trying to disappear.


between the intricacy of her lashes
i can see it you know that kind

of laugh with eyes unable to follow
the mouth how little beauty there is

in a hand that curls around
a glass into the slowest earth quake

watch me flood the linoleum watch me
fold myself up again i become

the warped reflection of her lips
inside the glass a slivered smile of

nothingness it peels into a moon
flooding the ceiling i remember

i want to go home but my home
got bombed in '97 i remember

before pain there comes erasure or was
it after all this time the hindu kush

stares down on us from a blue plastic
frame i want to go home but

the shop is sold out of cardamom

ghetto my ass

mother's hair opens a black veil
into her ossifying voice. the war did
not make her a heroine, instead it sent

the word prison aching as a bone
into the air that heats between us,
where i try to kiss

the one hand i cannot
reach, repeatedly. the bone
hovers like shitty blue grains

tumbling trough an amber-
hued projector beam into
the darkened living room�—

mazar-i-sharif, kabul, a pleated skirt, a basket

full of oranges, this is
when we were still rich—
as the afternoon sets once, twice, a million

times through every window of our
council block & the drains gift us
a yolk-soaked pigeon squab

to the pavement
below my room: almost silent, this slowest
act of erasure

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