Nadra Mabrouk

Nadra Mabrouk is a poet from Cairo, Egypt. She is the author of the chapbook, “How Things Tasted When We Were Young,” published by Finishing Line Press in 2016.  Her work has appeared/ is forthcoming in POETRY, RHINO, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her work is also forthcoming in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She has been recognized as a finalist for the 2017 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. Currently, she is a content intern for The Academy of American Poets, and is an MFA candidate at New York University, where she is a Goldwater fellow.

Myth of Your Imagined Return

I told you to stop dressing as the savior,
but here you are again at the side of the road,
thin cotton shriveling after the stinging rains
that foggy morning.
You are the heaviest traveler.
You unfold the cloth from your body
and mockingbird  feathers fly out of your worn mouth.
Cats gather around at the ends of your bitten shadow,
the potential of insignificant meat, of licks of marrow.
In one palm, a bloodied wing, the raw syrup
of a small existence in the other settling
between the serrated map of your hand,
threads of cloud hanging from your eyelashes.
What else have you halved in this century?

“Let’s Go Get Sammak in Queens And Have An Egyptian Day,” He Says

I’d forgotten the urgency of fish bones –
how the cage of cartilage splinters

between my teeth, hands picking the exhausted
meat apart into limp shreds of tulle, organza.

This won’t save us. Neither will the weight
of mercury stored in each filament like gold,

the scales charred, silvering off my nails
pirouetting in front of him in grey delirium.

Why does the flailing figure still remember
the water that once held it safe, only to push it away?

Tell me, closer, the Arabic word for the sunken
gasp when a needle lodges itself between lungs,

the word for air
when you can’t reach land.

Portrait of Autumn, Spiraling  

The spine is a string of pearls,
my doctor says, lower it carefully
on the table, each pearl
equally distanced, immaculate
centered failure. At some point in life
you have to learn what type of runner you are
and I have learned I prefer stumbling
into the bone-cage of landscape,
hands fanned open to the recursive.
There is a kindred to healing, everyone
in a violet, ancient line, the occasional
sound of twig snapping as we move
into our desired symmetry,
the round-mouthed snap of silence.
I am no different, trying to return
to some acoustic-breathed meadow,
tired of burrowing backward
into the signal. My mother on the phone
is upset that I still remember her sitting
on the kitchen floor of her mother’s
apartment in Shobra, plucking feathers
from the mottled bodies of geese, their insides
jeweled and engorged on their own shimmering
their necks hanging over her wrists
like unclasped bracelets.