banner art:
Paulette Claire Turcotte
mixed media print on archival paper 14 x 16.43 inches
[featured in Diaphanous Fall 2017]

* * *


Paper Skins on Onions

Spiders have the bulbs in a clean plastic
rack misrepresented, spinning cages.
The months of the moths are far yet
to come, but was the same chilly
coolness balancing off chain lamps
last year, causing us to abandon the light
for moths to find their last rites
(of passages) under stored vegetables
we keep by the wooden door
away from another wooden door
home to the moths, crawling beneath
the pre-supposed shelters – paper skins –
served to their bodies scuffing
across marble to their last breath.
We were quick to sweep them into a dustpan
knowing of other predators inhabiting crevices
to save their becoming first feast
of an opening summer, but spiders know
empty pans really mean anatomies,
sharpening their feet for better grip
on the new threads they loom, instincts
knowing onions are the toadstools
growing above tiny bodies.

* * *


In my part of the world, ants are
associated with nahoos – jinx.
My house turned into a cautious
rimmed bowl of sweet water
the day an invisible woman cried
by the door of a room’s bathroom.
She dragged her manacles across
the floor: to what she was bound –
shar, evil is the nullification of good;
dutiful recitations overlook
in their devoutness the incline
of a spirit’s wish to follow a house,
wherever they move, finding
a body of ants to home. An hour
past midnight, ceilings begin to
rumble, the arm from the right
shoulder going numb – ishara
signs: ants in a single file
scaling the wall to where
the sounds meet the ceiling –

* * *

An-Nur Al-Ain: Ya Sayyedi

after An-Nur by Laura M. Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)

The mountains have eaten our towns
of grief; the night isn’t bathing. Give me
a little vial of sand from where salvation walks
in burnt shoes. I will collect that sand,
hold my hand out to the sun until the grains harden.
Do you know what it is to pray for a country’s death –
negating its bed soaked in blood? Mocking our
eyes savoured by a hawk. Tears that have
wet the domes of our shrines like rain
on our wooden doors with carved names.
Put us through the ambition – these mountains
have teeth behind their seals. Send us a draft
of wind to burrow behind our ears. We are home;
people are towns savaged as meals.

* * *

An-Nur Al-Ain

after An-Nur by Laura Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)

Remember this day as the aim you were;
drive out the words coming out from

the movie we promised each other
we would be; we have serenaded

our minds into love’s holocaust –
idealised the isolation like albino keys

in a mad song. I will offer my hand
to draw out water. Evenings are lit

with green incandescence. It looks
like a cove off a sole-glowing comet

that will promise us a crater. I am
telling you about what lies in the walking

between my steps: there are multiple beings
showing from detached lights.

I have memorised a code that will be
just for my calling. But, for the sure

knowing of the outcome of aging, I can
show you the spell-wound path

that will be free of fight.

* * *

The Love of a Djinn

In death, she molests my dream;
grabs my armpits and whispers the name
of my lover like a lost decree I must remember.
In life, I borrow from her house: her help
comes over a phone where I vent
my words like a(s)sailing biopic of people
I can no longer trace to the fulcrum of fault.
I tell her she helps me in backward motion,
begins at the end where I am farthest
from the start. She lowers her head side
ways, looks to her invisible lover who
has semblance of nothing but a shadow
of everything; he tells her he’s chosen
and her eyes lift to meet mine. He is a mass
of fire, too young for the aging wither
of her bluing blood; my skin’s his rage
of ripe splendour. She and I are a common
nature of difference. This is how it will be:
he shall burn like a forest higher than life,
I shall coax his embers into the mouth of
the sea. And she shall rest her ashen
loins unlatched from him.

* * *

How do I be?

That tanzanite light breaking through fissures
at the base of mountains before the sun drapes
over darkness, how do I be? The fleet of boats
cruising on waters of simple words, like a moonlight
so impalpable yet believable, steady paced
and offering ripples of hope to your shadows
in densely salty waters. I want to be the wall
surrounding your being, glittering like a cluster
of gems, eluding keen passersby approaching
the gates of your soul, so they can never know
your aloneness, so it stays mine to breach.
Tell me to be the eyes of your past lovers enriched
with memories of exotic sights locked in theirs.
I am tired of being without your favour,
a scribble on stones, a misdirected mirage.
Conjure me in hours of anxiousness
to ease your wandering mind that creases into
melancholic folds of anguish. Plough deep
rows of fear and plant fire. Make me the stem
from which a carnation blooms petals
of desire. How do I be, the carnal secrets
escaping your lips? Spoken like golden twilight,
engorging deflection over an indigo-flushed ocean,
spumes of entanglements locking with the shore.

* * *


Describe your process in writing poetry.

My process is an odd one, at least what I think. I tend to have ideas erupting in my head like short bursts of sentences or a combination of words, sometimes coming in like an overflowing—or other times like bouts of suppressed air looking for release. And of all these ideas, there are very few that actually come to life in the form of a poem. The rest become shadows. Those that linger morph into new ideas; those that don’t probably leave me to find wanting space in someone else’s mind. I believe in out-of-the-body experiences, astral, “floating in a bubble from the real world” kind of processes that, I believe, are an enigmatic and predominant “culture” for writing poetry. Since I weigh heavily towards mystics, spiritualism, the fantastical and surreal, amongst my otherwise occasional breezy moments of lyrical and melodious,I write to balance moods.

Sometimes the exercise of writing a poem becomes so intense, I deliberately let it go, don’t finish it in one sitting (even though the thoughts are rolling), which results in a poem taking longer than a few days ranging into a week or maybe even a month to meet its last written line. I don’t have a disciplined process. It’s quite mad. Most times I don’t even know the direction I’d be taking with the poem I started. I rely on visual stimulation, grabbing an image or a motion picture scene, dwelling on it, and then finding direction. There was a time in my life when I started having strange dreams in my sleep, so vivid, I’d be able to recount it with perfection to its every detail. I began using those as material for my poetry—and since most of these dreams were obfuscating, I turned them into my own theories, giving me the liberty of molded creativity.

When did you start writing seriously?

I can’t remember the exact time. I know it began at some point in University. In high school we studied poetry as part of a Literature course quite extensively for three years (the O Level years). So, I wasn’t without background, though didn’t enjoy it as much, nor paid attention to the techniques or meters or purpose. I found it taxing, to be honest. It seemed like a thing to do as part of the syllabus in order to get a passable grade to be able to graduate to the next level. It was a robotic routine. Aside from poetry, we studied classic plays, novels, and a selection of short stories, which is why all of it seemed like a pile of work—filling up our ink pens and emptying pots of it to dish out pages and pages of summaries, essays, appreciations, etc. The real purpose came only a decade ago, when I was introduced to poetry in a completely new perspective after connecting with people on social sites and then started reading the writs and ramblings of emerging, struggling, established writers. The more I read, the more imaginative my mind became. I do recall writing and getting published in magazines for juniors in my growing up years in U.A.E. It was a pleasure to see my name in print at that young age, not out of some real emotional interest towards the dynamics of writing—but naturally, owing to age (years of pre-teen). So, I had been writing in generic form from a young age. But the seriousness came much, much after. Now, writing is me-space, me-time, me-zone—a much more serious and even possessive interest.

When were you first published?

Like I mentioned above, I was published a few times in my junior years in national magazines, but for poetry it was with Poetry Sans Frontier and eFiction India Magazine, the latter of which, I went on to serve as poetry editor for some three plus years.

Who are your favorite writers and artists?

I read so many on a daily basis, it’s hard to pick specifics. But, since I love the fantastical and spiritual, my current favorites are Clark Ashton Smith, Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Omar Khayyam as well as paintings by surrealists, abstract and landscape artists. I recently came upon work of Bosch and Bruegel and found them deeply fascinating. I even looked into some paintings of Rene Magritte. My current favorite in paintings is Tighe O’ Donoghue; his works are visually mesmerizing and mentally intellectual. I won’t say I am a connoisseur of art, but because my writing is prompted by visual stimulation, I enjoy looking at visual art a great deal. I find, for myself, that the best way to achieve innovative or interesting imagery in writing is through visual art. My list of favorites is otherwise everchanging; I don’t have fixed favorites—though Oscar Wilde is perennial.

What poets have influenced your poetry?

As mentioned, I read various writers and view works of many artists, I am under continuous influence. It can be a line or a couplet or even a fridge magnet quote that will move me in some way to inspire a poem or two; or even a casual conversation of nothing. Last year I joined with seven Nigerian poets in a response medley of metaphysical poetry on Facebook. It triggered with my reading of a response to a poem, piquing my curiosity to read the original, inducing my response to the response, that turned into a chain series as other poets kept joining the train with their responses. We managed to write about 30 poems in total in a matter of a week! I think it’s an inherent thing about artists; we are subconsciously receptive to the universe in general, so everything we read or see influences us in traces or swathes in some way or another. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware we’ve been influenced until we zone into our alone space. We like to call it inspiration, but maybe, inspiration and influence really are the same.

What advice would you give other writers?

Never kill the tiny voice in their ears arising from the pits of their being, telling them they can and are able. Flesh it into form through writing, art, speech, or do nothing about it in creative terms, but don’t kill it. With it, you will kill your intuition and your will. Every form of art began in some ordinary or bland or mundane or non-exquisite form. I know I cringe at my early writing when I go back to it, but, that’s because we are constantly evolving, and also because artists are generally excruciatingly self-critical by nature. But don’t turn that into a demotivating factor to stop. If you stop, you will never know how far you could’ve made it. Or lose all the opportunities of learning and developing from having decided you weren’t good and couldn’t get better. Read, read, read, read, read. As much as you can. Read with imagination. Read just one line if that is all you can manage for the day or read nothing but take the time to deliberate over what you read previously. It will increase curiosity and will coax you to read/search some more. Also, most importantly, be humble. Nobody is omniscient or omnipotent because there will always be something you don’t know or aren’t able to do that someone else has ability of over you.

Are you currently working on a collection of poetry?

Yes, I actually am. After the release of Nyctophiliac Confessions through Praxis Magazine, there is another collaborative venture with Suvojit Banerjee that I’m hoping to put together and see the light of its day soon (since being delayed by bounds and ends of either mundane, but cannot be neglected, chores/responsibilities or the fatal lethargy). Apart from that, I have an idea brewing in my head for a solo chapbook but haven’t assimilated the skeleton as yet–though I do have a fast-developing collection.

Sheikha A

AUTHOR BIO: Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Over 300 of her poems have been published in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent and upcoming work are/will be with Polu Texni, Strange Horizons, SurVision, Pedestal Magazine, Mobius, Abyss and Apex, and elsewhere.

Sheikha A’s website
Nyctophiliac Confessions

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