Two Poems | Momtaza Mehri | Granta

Two Poems

Momtaza Mehri

This Little, This Late

Ageing, you are closer to leaving me.
Still born early enough to have tasted it.
Drenched in the accident of your birth, the blessing
of perfect timing, you wandered your city’s tree-lined streets.
Inhaled sharp breathfuls of bougainvillea. Not a year too late.
I know this means you will be taken from me sooner.

Still wouldn’t have it any other way.
You lived the childhood you could never give me.
A lifetime too late, I sat between your legs.
Slathering my curls with olive oil, you unspooled
the reels of your youth. Spaghetti westerns at Cinema Nasar.
I craved your cellular memory of the Indian Ocean.

The night air licking your clavicles.
A fountain to dip your elbows in.
Old men combing their henna-stained beards.
Gentle Barbarossas clucking their tongues outside Café Nazionale.
One day, you flipped your pillow to its cold side.
Woke up. In an instant, that country was gone.

Mother, let me mourn what I have never seen.
Rub my scalp and tell me who I could have been.
Feed me a morsel or two. This hunger terrifies me.
My feet are wet. My heart is a squeeze of envy.
Thumbprints only muddy the sleeves of a family album.
I would die to relive even the most ordinary of your days.





You Will Never Tell Your Daughters

what happened, or who it happened to.
You decide this, even in the moment’s delayed drag,
in the sequined familiarity of your sandals.
Insist on forgetting, on destroying the satin record
of your missteps. The moon is a split lip,
spilling all over your brown shoulders.
A wash of light claims your mouth.
Agnano is hills and hunger.
From your bedroom, you can see the hippodrome.
A verdant blanket.
Almost worth all this ruin.
In years to come, the solid history of your earrings will survive.
For now, you are still young, and they graze your cheeks.
Two molten rivers, fluent in the language
of descent, reflecting the molecular weight of anguish
on your face.


Natüürmort, Herald Eelma, 1965 © Tartu Kunstimuuseum


Two poems from Bad Diaspora Poems by Momtaza Mehri, published by Jonathan Cape. Mehri is shortlisted for the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on 19th March, 2024.

Momtaza Mehri

Momtaza Mehri is an award-winning poet and essayist. She is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and winner of the 2019 Manchester Writing Prize. Her writing has featured in the Guardian, POETRY, Granta, Wasafiri, Bidoun, The White Review and on BBC Radio 4. She works across criticism, translation, anti-disciplinary research practices, education and radio. Bad Diaspora Poems is the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and the 2023 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.   Photograph © Ndrika Anyika

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