Ode to Gossips

i was mothered by lonely women       some
of  them wives     some of them             with

plumes of  smoke for husbands    all    lonely
smelling of  onions & milk         all mothers

some of them to children some to old names
phantom girls acting out a life        only half

a life away      instead        copper kitchenware
bangles pushed up the arm    fingernails rusted

with henna          kneading raw meat with salt
with coriander                     sweating upper lip

in the steam       weak tea          hair unwound
against the nape         my deities      each one

sandal slapping against stone heel      sandal-
wood & oud                    bright chiffon spun

about each head     coffee in the dowry china
butter biscuits on a painted plate      crumbs

suspended in eggshell demitasse       & they
begin                  i heard       people are saying

i saw it with my own eyes       [      ]’s daughter
a scandal                  she was wearing [      ]

& not wearing [   ]            can you imagine
a shame                                             a shame

More Poems by Safia Elhillo