Two poems by Momtaza Mehri

Bars Bars Bars

how it was is half the fun. half the story.

the grit underneath nails.  the last bit of meat left on the bone. a clinging

of years. yaa the years. softening like plastic. hoarded in narrowing closets

in the coldest of spare rooms. mothball mama. all the how it could have beens.

crates of apples & pears. flushing green as sickness.

remind me how. tell me how. she took two boxes to the prison.

let the guard touch her somewhere no one else had. yet.

he appeared. lighter than memory.  lidded eyes & dried blood bloom.

the reed of his spine now bent. do not ask how.

imagine all the ways a coat hanger can be put to use

& stop there.

he stops too. at the burst of fruit, of something foreign, at her chest.

he does not notice.

leans over to whisper. did she remember the chocolate?

hazelnut spread & air conditioner hum. he wants it all.

imported from italy. back then it was a new thing.  a modern kind of sweetness.

you know how it is. how everything worth having gets stuck between the teeth.

brown against brown against bars.

the whites of his eyes tell their own tales.

she is not what he asked for.

but she is what he has.


Woke up to the sound of Big Bio spitting I heard it’s not where you from but where you pay rent.

An accident of fate. Yesterday’s news. Brushed what teeth I got & set pace. Know nothing beyond the downwards slide of flesh. Don’t know much about Big Boi’s South but I know what a murderous slumber looks like. Iced tea cut bitter. Inheritance. Misshapes. A guilt to marinate in. All my reference points are dead or on the way there. Bronchiole to bronchiole. What enters me always disseminates. Splits at the seams. Blood passes through the checkpoints of valves. Swing swings at the gate. Rolls backwards. Lean and slack-mouthed. Passport as freedom papers. Passport as paid dues. When in Rome, do as Romans do. Which incidentally is where mama ran to. Where auntie nearly got raped. Where the boot softened its imprint into my neck. Where the steel-toe kissed my teeth. Left a stamp I’ll carry to the grave. Don’t know much about the South, or boxed holes, but I know what goes down the drain. What always goes down.

(both previously unpublished)

Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and meme archivist. Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer was published as part of the New Generation African Poets series in 2017. Twitter: @RuffneckRefugee