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Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland, where she is completing a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, studying poetry written by second-generation immigrants. She is the author of the chapbook Faces that Fled the Wind (BOAAT Press 2019) and the winner of the 2018 Ploughshares Emerging Writers’ Contest in Poetry. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Prairie Schooner, Best Canadian Poetry and others. She is co-editor of They Rise Like A Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets with Christine Kitano, forthcoming from Blue Oak Press in 2020, and reads for Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She received an MFA from the University of Oregon. Visit her website http://alycia-pirmohamed.com/
The poem and manuscript below were included in the printed program of the 2019 Discovery Winners’ Reading. “There Are Parts of Myself I Have Watched Die” was first published by The Adroit Journal.
As if it is a kind of strength to hold something down
and slit its throat.
I have died three times in this poem, already.
The truth is, there is a river after death and I see it move
toward me, frothing in its shape of lemon wedges.
I seek truth in the surfaces that glint beneath eyelids
carrying a heavy lash. I close my eyes
and pray a good prayer.
I would rather see the pleating river than the knives
my neighours hold.
I would not call it strength how a man can lace up another man
and hang him by his religion,
how a moon can call another moon “blood.”
Yes, I have died three times in this poem by your hand.
The river speaks in whistles and stones; it says that perhaps
I have always been a visitor.
It carries away its marrow and driftwood,
and sometimes my body stripped of its bleating.
I wonder, did I swim on a current and cut through this border?
Did I knock over a jar
of thirty-three prayers into a kitchen of hanging moons?
Or perhaps, what the river really said
is that I can only stay a visitor for so long.
With each death, I become ghostly, ghostlier—
that slips through a heart chewing its prairie grains,
a heart bred on western winds,
a heart that is almost a noose.
I have killed myself three times in this poem, already,
but only a single face fades at a time.
The river taught me once about belonging
and I turned those lessons into a grave.
Watch the 2019 Winners’ Reading.