Momtaza Mehri

On Finally Seeing Astarte Syriaca I Am Overcome With A Longing To Text You A Meme Only You Would Laugh At


Oily sin tinged green and supple
as grace. I am keening. I end where I begin. A belly
full of the meat of my own desires.
Being the first born daughter means I am always tired
and bored of my own silences. Or siblings. Often
I confuse the two. I am accustomed to men who can cross
continents but never the gulfs in their own living rooms. I think of distance
as I stand in front of a gilded Rossetti, studying the precise
angle of a pout. Harp of lip. A cold slab of shoulders. Eggshell wrist.
Is beauty not this auburn haired and exacting?
Like the feeling of just making the last train. The obscene shape of your panting
on window glass. A man naming you after a country he has never seen.
I don’t know what it means to stand in front of an idol
and not see my own reflection. Convincing you is half the problem.
Yes. It is arrogant to think you are the problem. But it has to be one of us
and it isn’t me. I don’t make the rules. I am unmade by them.
Let me be a slipped disc. Let me be the foetal position you assume after.
Let me be your every assumption. Make me regret how small my palms are.
Make me regret nothing.

Shellac Dreams


Learning to trust this man with the radius of my clavicles is a full-time job.
Let me self-select my pauses. To speak of rickety chairs and heavy bags
Is to speak of gentler comforts. We both know what it means to rely on dial-up.
All that is worth counting is measured in hand spans.
To be reborn as project of secrecy is to be a loose translation
Of a woman’s silver bracelets sliding down the arc of her wrists. Our fears may be
Subtitled but we are in the business of staring at screens. I am only occasionally
Hurt by everybody’s nationalisms. Mostly, I soak in the afterglow of my own opulence.
Let’s re-enact The Creation of Adam. My blood-fresh manicure will lend its own pathos.
Rise to the occasion, my skirt of spittle. On my behalf.
Years collect at the cupid ’s bow, clap the back of knees like belt buckles.
Sweet, sweet collaborator. I love how uncompromising your dreams are. So technicolour.
Deliriously intact. Lend me your abandon. No, it isn’t medically possible to die of nostalgia.
But we’ll try anyway


Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and editor. She is currently the Young People's Laureate for London. Her work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Vogue, The Poetry Review, Real Life Mag, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space, and on BBC Radio 4. She is a Complete Works Fellow and has been shortlisted for the Brunel African Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize. She won the 2017 Out-Spoken Page Poetry Prize and was third in the 2017 National Poetry Competition. Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer was published as part of the New Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani, in 2017. Her poems also feature in Ten: Poets of the New Generation, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2017.