ON LOVE (After The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, in Which Almitra Is Really the Prophet and Also She’s a Preying Mantis)

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The Slave – Khalil Gibran 1920


you know, he talks a lot. i made the mistake of giving him my name
& he thought it was my heart. he called it a shore parallel to his
marveled at the sea between us. spoke balsam about my bite.
waxed crime and punishment about my kills
and speaking of all this killing and this speaking
i was going in for it when Mustafa asked me.

he thought himself a wiseass, maybe. or maybe not.
the holy types never think so	and that’s why 
the burning crosses come for them in the night. 
you know, i rode the burning smoke here
to do him a favor, to make it quick and clean
i’ve been building inside myself & my paradise 
could use the molasses
he is made of

but then he asked me if it was an e or an a
in the “preying” 

said to him “what’s the difference
said to him “preying is a type of prayer”
said to him “join me in this prayer”

and then said the holy man, “Almitra, speak to me of Love”
and he raised his head to the lightbulb july of my body
the convex of time hidden in the bend of my back
i want to snap his body the same angle, to find
another shapeless crystal knot for my collection

                      well okay it’s like this, mustafa. listen to me.
                      listen. everything you love? 
                      just put it in your mouth. chew on it.
                      eat it. this is how you see tomorrow.

                      when love beckons in you
                      it will feel like a water drum
                      where your pulse
                      where your pulse
                      just where it is, that’s all
                      for even as it reminds you
                      you’re alive, it hymnals you
                      your funeral song

                      even as it finally brings you to shore upon its back
                      it is but a beached whale beating itself against the bank
                      of your sternum again and again. again. always wanting to die.
                      and then dying. and then not. this is not romantic. don’t tell yourself it is.
                      if you feel like dying, it is not love. if you are dying, it is not
                      because of love. it’s because we are all dying
                      we are all killing the things we love, eating them to stay alive

                      don’t look upon me with exceeding tenderness, mustafa
                      like i first sought you and believed in you when you had
                      been but a day in this city.  it was your whale song i was after
                      i want to thresh it free from your synovial fluid. 
                      ride into the light, melt into the sun.

                      the ship you’re waiting for has been inside you all along
                      i didn’t want you to know this. i didn’t want you to know
                      where i like to strike.

                      me? i had that once. my own compass.
                      but you know, i spent some time in greece. 
                      met someone like you. let him paint patterns in my legs
                      let him see the last thing anyone sees when i come for them
                      the expansion of my body into something ancient
                      and emerald and molten night becoming my skin,
                      but softer. but scary. but then he knew where to close his fist 
                      and then kept me as cargo in myself
                      so i never tasted my own salt. 
                      never got to lay its eggs, name each one
                      or teach them every letter, right to left.
                      not that i needed anyone to warm my abdomen for me
                      i made him nervous. i didn’t need him for anything

                      and i knew of his shipwrecks. i saw empires falling on the horizon.
                      so he kept me as his pet. named me almitra. named me mantodea. 
                      named me his prophet. expected miracles, tried to knead me
                      compliant. into what the bird in him wanted me to be. 
                      he told me this was love. it sounded pretty enough.
                      but it was just company. I was never one for company. 
                      Never one for togetherness, just the space between.

                      in the night i came for the hummingbird he called his heart
                      i was so hungry. i am an ambush predator. 
                      not one for hunting but i’ve been hunting you, mustafa.

                      In the seasonless world where I laughed all my laughter
                      and wept all my tears, you ask me about love like I’m the one
                      you should ask. You expect me to flower. To be nectar 
                      & soft right angles	when I only ever prey

                      I still haven’t struck. I think by now you know 
                      I have no venom for you. Go ahead. Call my bluff. 
                      Call me a name another man gave me instead asking me for my own
                      You’re not even going to write it down, are you. 
                      You’re not even going to write me down, are you. Not really.
                      Yet you’ve asked me about love. I’m so tired, Mustafa.
                      I’ve eaten all my love and sleep now by the hand
                      of my prey. That’s you, by the way. I’ll let it be you.
                      No final prayer for me, but go now to
                      your beloved. Sing not the song of praise
                      upon your lips in lieu of listening. 
                      Too many men have done that.
                      Just fucking listen, Mustafa. That’s all you need
                      to know. 

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About Jess Rizkallah

Hey hi hello, I'm Jess, another english major twenty-something that makes things and has internet connection and a sheepish desire to be considered a writer/artist person. I edit Maps for Teeth magazine and smell like angry coffee grounds probably 44% of the time View all posts by Jess Rizkallah

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