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Poem after Zinaida Serebriakova’s Young Woman in Profile, Marrakesh, 1932

Some crows

crack open the dawn’s

red fruit.

Through glassless windows,

the day ignites

in your clay hands

with the exigency

of a thousand inhabited


Tongue-tied, you

try to name

the birds in the garden.

The crowd of them


then mollifying

and cannibalizing you.

They pull roses

from your mouth,

thorns intact.

You wear a beautiful


You mistook a ghost

for a deity,

lost count of your wars,

and now you are gone, too.

Still, the nightjars

sing in the desert.

Autobiography of Spine

A year of hurt passed
through my body
like a ghost
gulfed between waiting
and wanting.
It was a hibernation I survived—
not for lack of trying.

I was made a home
for the bees.
My ligaments branch.
Honey and fear swelled
in me like an allergy.

I wore what weather
I was allowed.
A tsunami’s kid gloves.
A dress of comb
from the day’s cartilage.

The pain entered
me the way the moon
disarms the day
a slick blade.
I offered myself as water,
studied its errancy.
What a good citizen,
I thought.

I was given a name
easy on the tongue
spelled in tumult.
I learned its dance.
But the hive crowded me
out until I was bare
and without.

I swam to a body
of land where
there were trees
and tall, kind figures.
I asked nothing.
I slept for days
and am still sleeping.

Shireen Madon holds degrees from Columbia University and New York University. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Indiana Review, The Journal, Wildness, Rattle, and Third Coast, among others. A Kundiman fellow, she has been the recipient of awards from Poets & Writers and the Academy of American Poets.

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