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Two Poems by donia salem harhoor

you are prepared for all of it. how the blood will smell. of you. of lavender. of the crown of a head.

Poetry | Egypt, the underworld
July 13, 2021


after Tina Zafreen Alam


in the field of rushes
i am restored
firmplanted   heronlegged  
by the saffron breath
of the great cacklers
their smiles little crescents
sacreding the sky
deceased parts of me

deceased parts of me:
the lost baby
a community garden overrun by aphids
three catbird fledglings anubised
an absconded city of bees
baba’s tongue buried in sand

baba’s tongue buried in sand
desiccates everything
we beetle
carry grains out again and again
on our iridescent backs
our circuiting labor
too slow
for his drying viscera
still    we attempt to invert
the underworld

the underworld
adores the space between
each of my fingers
eight portals
for the doublelioned sun
to pass through 
eight paths 
into the funeral valley
the dead there
jasper and egg 
in the embalming
old life re-members
makes descendants 
marsh dwellers
assures their always arrival 
in the field of rushes

a note about the poem:

mire is part of an ongoing exploration that considers The Book of Coming Forth by Day (The Egyptian Book of the Dead) as a portal/anchor/companion/divining tool while queering and subverting the language of its English translations—all penned by marauding white “experts.” Generating word banks from these translations, then creating new language, the poem is interested in returning and restoration. I am drawn to the original funerary texts because of how they model care, providing a cartography for departed souls to traverse. It intrigues me, how carefully drawn up the gloriously strange instructions are, how attentively tailored and prescribed, how reverent and significant their task. The incantations’ rich detail speaks to the fine attunement that the most impactful practices of care require. I wonder also how such texts transform the lives of the living—what the cost of their always future-looking is. They raise questions around the impact of care, the ways we can disappear in it, the value of such dissolving, the need for collaboration and connection while traversing such terrain, and the eternality of it all. True radical care is queer by nature. Gratitude to the Hok Danil artists, especially Kamee Abrahamian, for helping birth this work.


There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns. – Octavia Butler

the delta’s ochre earth 
cements your lids

your tears must dissolve 
the seal in this awakening

this is how you return 
to your mother

while washing her away

breath between
each vertebra
this column
of stars
this abdomen
glorious infinite
Nut stretching
over her
every lover
pressing comets
into skin
blood rich
lungs enveloped
in ribs



you are prepared for all of it. how the blood will smell. of you. of lavender. of the crown of a head. of the ancestors living in your throat. when the fists rush towards your gut, they will find instead smoke. they will mistake it for fog from the fields near the highway. they will blame the early morning hours, scold themselves for not leaving the night before, lament the impossibly slow ride to the airport. you have already breathed through this burning, know that it is necessary for the seeds
to drop.