When the live decarceration teach-in freezes as Ruth
Wilson Gilmore repeated the words, Organize, Organize,
Organize, the chat erupted in solidarity: youtube is on to us;
this is the message we were not supposed to hear. And just like that,
across bladed borders and unnamed sorrows, we were all
holding our breath in the same room, watching the intimacy
of collapse from a safe distance. By now, we must be aficionados
at wafting the smolder of news-filtered grief. By grief,
I mean responsibility. By that, I mean I take after my mother,
who confuses compassion for a theory of return. The two of us,
we are holding out our chests and running, catching stray hairs
and missed appointments like drops of water. When I say mother,
I mean labor. By that, I mean our work is only as radical as our ability
to love. In the slanderous sea of it all, the economy cannot market
the smallness of children. Or the birds’ chirp cutting through
the density of our anger. And yet. I think I am telling a lie, fulfilling
expectations of softness, melons of hope. In actuality, I am obsessed
with dormant cruelty – the phenomenology of bodily compression:
the prisoners hermetically sealed, the dreams where someone is always
pulling the curtain or opening a door. It’s so dark in here, they say,
laughing like health. She is a woman of course. Shiny. Unburdened.
And in the corner of the room, my mother’s face is blighted.
The houses fill with sand. If the pandemic is a portal, slosh
through its waters without considering grace. We are just
people. We sleep in and avoid the news. We unabashedly
forget there was ever a Jerusalem to die over, practicing oblivion
for the bewildered hours when God brings us to our milky knees.
Maha Ahmed is an English Literature & Creative Writing PhD candidate at the University of Houston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Grist, The Adroit Journal, 580 Split, Rusted Radishes, The Recluse, and elsewhere. She loves talking about the Arab-American diaspora, late capitalism, World Literature, translation, and inter-religious history. She is currently the poetry editor at Rusted Radishes and absolutely adores the gig. Find her on twitter @mahaahmed81.