Sarah Fathima Mohammed
San Jose, California
The Harker School
i just wanted to memorize the sanctity of permission.
so i whittled my body into a golden cathedral, beating
soft & shuddering, just to prove there was something
buried in the valleys of my form that could not be
trespassed & abandoned, again & again. just to prove
i was heavy as powdered red brick, holiness gleaming
pure & unmarked. just to prove the world allowed dual
entry: i could baptize a mouth swollen like a stained
plum on the marble of my spine as gaping dawn, split
wide open. or i could pull away like melted petals,
watching dusk settle into the temple of my body.
in this world, i thought i would no longer lay frozen
within myself, wild & afraid, arms splayed
like scattered ellipsis. because what mattered
most was not the shape of the church but the warmth
inside its spilling veins: my heart pebbled with the heat
of hazy maple armor running thin as cello strings
but sonorous like the aching shadows of possession
through the stained-glass panes, flush with light.
outside, the sun dripped freely down the crevices
of the earth, burning & forbidden. the thighs
of the hinterlands whispered my name in the dark,
possibility shuttering in & out. i thought my body
became a shrine, worshipped & protected for the sake
of itself. but the fire-lipped shackles of womanhood
never fell away. & the next bitter night, i was pressed
back on another bed that wasn’t mine, frayed cotton
sheets moving in sluggish timbre, yielding like drowning
water. undulating again & again.
In "temple body," the author uses the metaphor of a cathedral to explore our ownership of our bodies, and when they are violated against our will. Flush with figurative language and unapologetic emotion, the poem grips all of the reader's senses and refuses to let go.
Sarah Fathima Mohammed is a brown, Muslim-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Diode, Apprentice Writer, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Poetry Society of the UK, and the National Poetry Quarterly’s Editors’ Choice Prize, among others. When she is not writing, she serves as managing editor for The Aurora Review and genre editor for Polyphony Lit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR