During the pandemic, I found myself craving the tenderest moments of physical contact from loved ones I would never see again. Angbeen Saleem's poems arrived to me in a deep spiral of sadness, drawing me gently through yearning and into joy. Both poems invite us to hold the bodies of our beloveds once more, if only for a moment in our minds, reminding us that we do not experience the fullness of love and loss alone.
— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor
philly for the weekend
whenever you are home, ammi insists your hair is too dry.
and you need to take better care of it.
today you’ll set the blanket down on the hardwood floors.
she’ll warm the mustard oil in a pool of water.
tending to it like baby formula.
she’ll sit on the black couch, ready
to tuck your body between her legs.
she’ll work the warmth into your head.
one section at a time.
one scalp at a time.
one strand at a time.
one love at a time.
you’ll watch curtains you stenciled with her at 12
dance in the shadows from a neighbor’s tree.
she’ll move to your ends and say
“they are so thirsty, they can’t stop drinking.”
and you’re so thirsty, you can’t stop drinking.
alternate reality in which i don’t say goodbye to my grandmother over video chat
under the orange tree / in the veranda / on the charpai / my hand silly / with mehndhi / hold still / filigrees of ancient soil / we collapsed / our hands in prayer / we stayed there for / ameen / ameen / ameen / or eternities / our hands soft together / silky with wet henna / she smiles our smile / i gap our gap / unwilling to stop / a coronation / if we let it be / let us / be / let us sleep / in the movie theater / in the rain / through the music / of the birds / when we wake / our hennaed hands / become mirrors / into the futures / we haven’t dreamed of / yet / we are our own / brides / today / we are not allowed to cook /or clean / we eat / persimmons / under the orange tree